When Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus made its final curtain call last month, animal advocates everywhere celebrated a hard-earned victory. For generations, people have been protesting the use and treatment of performing wild animals. When Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced last year that disappointing ticket sales meant they were taking down the tent for good, there was finally hope for the 40-50 animals being exploited for profit. The elephants were released into retirement last year and most animal advocates assumed the remaining animals would receive similar treatment.
Big cat trainer and presenter Alexander Lacey works with tigers Max and Kashmere training them with repetition and rewards of fresh meat.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Animal Legal Defense Fund published a press release announcing Feld Entertainment’s intent to send 15 animals, including tigers, lions and one leopard, to continue their careers with a circus in Germany. Animal Legal Defense Fund reports Feld Entertainment applied for an Endangered Species Act permit to ship the big cats to Europe.
In order for the permit to be granted, it must be proven that the company’s underlying intent “enhances the propagation or survival of the species.” There’s little doubt that using whips and fear to force a wild animal to jump through hoops does nothing good for the species, but even still, the permit is likely to be granted. This is because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a reputation for operating on a “pay-to-play” basis. In the past, similar petitions have been granted after a “nominal donation” is made to a conservation program.
While the Animal Legal Defense Fund plans to publicly oppose the export permit, there’s little hope for the big cats. The elephants that dazzled audiences under the Ringling Bros. name were owned by Feld Entertainment, but the big cats being threatened with further exploitation are privately owned by trainer Alexander Lacey. Lacey grew up in England and plans to return to Europe with his property. The most likely scenario sees the former Ringling Bros. trainer taking his big cat act for further profit with Zirkus Krone in Germany. Executive Director at Animal Legal Defense Fund, Stephen Wells, said in the press release,
“After spending years being carted around in cramped transport cages for 50 weeks of the year, it’s time for Ringling and trainer Alexander Lacey to let these tigers live out their lives at a reputable sanctuary where they can experience the space, habitats and peace they need and deserve.”
Big cat trainer, Alexander Lacey, gets affectionate with his beautiful lion, Massai, during a performance of LEGENDS.
Animal advocates are outraged at the very real possibility that these animals will spend the rest of their lives being passed between circuses to endure unimaginable abuse and mistreatment. One Green Planet has started a petition to send the animals to sanctuaries and they encourage everyone who advocates for them to express their opinions by contacting Feld Entertainment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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