Circuses have officially been banned from using elephants

Going to the circus is something that most kids usually get treated to at least once in their childhood years. But, has the circus lost it's magic a little?

With children more interested in electronic devices, Minecraft and Nerf guns, being sat down and told to passively watch a circus performance might be a little underwhelming for them. Circuses feel a mounting pressure to impress people who are so used to instant gratification and interactive entertainment in an internet-driven society. They're forced to change their ways and to update their tricks to stay a spectacle.

And a huge part of that is the circus' long-standing tradition of animal acts. Watching a pony dance on its hind legs, or a tiger force to hold it's massive jaw wide while the conductor sticks his head between its teeth may have impressed people many years ago. But now, people seem to be more uncomfortable with these animals being part of the circus routine. A big part of that comes from the videos and stories that tell of abuse these animals are subject to in order to become obedient and learn circus tricks.

And to reflect this mounting concern for animal rights, a new law has announced the end of the circus being allowed to include elephants in their acts. It seems no longer will we see the enormous, intelligent and emotional creatures balancing on balls or holding each other's tails as acrobats dance on their backs.

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It comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo of the Democrats has signed a bill stating that the New York State has banned circuses from using elephants in their shows. It's a law that many people think should have been put into place a long time ago, but nevertheless – it's a start, and the fact that it's the progressive and influential state of New York leading the movement is a good thing.

"Today I signed legislation banning the use of elephants in entertainment acts," wrote Cuomo in a tweet. "Elephants will no longer be subjected to this cruel abuse."

The sign off from the governor comes four months after the New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, signed a similar measure voting to ban any wild animal acts in circus shows.

“The use of elephants in these types of settings is dangerous to their health and potentially abusive,” he added in a statement about the new ruling. “The Elephant Protection Act furthers this administration’s efforts to fight animal cruelty, and create a stronger, more humane New York.”

The law will come into effect in 2019, and will come with a legal penalty of up to $1,000 per violation. While it's not hefty, it's already having an effect after the Garden Bros Circus felt the pressure to leave its elephants in Pennsylvania while touring New York. Still, executive director of the group that produces Garen Bros, Jim Davis, insisted to the Poughkeepsie Journal: "They’re not beaten or prodded; it’s voice command and hand command."

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New York circuses have lately been under increasing pressure from the public and animal rights groups to stop including elephants in their shows. Most commonly, stories circulate of elephants being plucked from the wild, kept in tiny, barren pens, and being subject to beatings and proddings from bullhooks during training years.

“Confinement, torture and unhealthy living conditions have led to early death for these intelligent, gentle animals,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who was a sponsor of the bill. “Elephants will no longer be subjected to cruel treatment for our amusement."

Elephants are known to be extremely self-aware and emotionally complex, feeling joy, playfulness, grief, and mourning. They're incredibly intelligent and able to learn new facts and behaviours and to perform artistically – which is why they have always been popular circus animals. This recent video of two elephants saving a drowning calf shows just how compassionate and resourceful they are:

The move by the New York State is a major win for those campaigning for the wellbeing of elephants (and for those who generally care about the wellbeing of animals), and will hopefully spark a movement around the world to follow suit.