L.A. considering ban on elephant performances

Ian Lovett / New York Times News Service /

Published Dec 30, 2012 at 04:00AM

LOS ANGELES — The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train has been bringing 4-ton Asian elephants to this city since 1919.

But “The Greatest Show on Earth” might have made its last stop here.

Los Angeles is poised to ban elephants from performing in circuses within its city limits, after pressure from animal welfare advocates who have for decades condemned the methods used to train and transport elephants as abusive.

If the City Council adopts the ban early next year, Ringling Brothers, the oldest continuously operated circus in the country, will be barred from the nation’s second-largest city unless its owners agree to abandon one of the show’s signature acts.

“The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it’s time for us to stand up for them,” said Paul Koretz, the City Council member who sponsored the ban.

Trainers argue that letting people interact with elephants makes them more likely to support conservation efforts.

“Seeing animals up close is one of the main reasons people come to Ringling Brothers,” said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which bought Ringling Brothers in 1967. “Animal rights organizations want no human-animal interaction, period, regardless of how the animals are cared for.”