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Ringling Bros. hits town, protesters demand elephants retire before 2018

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A crowd gathered Wednesday evening outside the Richmond Coliseum to protest Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and the way they treat their animals, especially their elephants.

“Elephants, tigers and other animals are beaten and abused and forced to perform for the circus,” protester Laura Cascada with Richmond Friends of Animals, said.

The circus recently announced it will stop using elephants in its shows in 2018, after criticism from activists and customers about the use of bull hooks and other tools used to control the animals.

The protesters outside the Richmond Coliseum said that is not soon enough.

“It's too long for the elephants to wait. They're traveling around in box cars, in chains,” Cascada said.

elephants at circus

But, Joey Frisco, who is a third general elephant trainer with the circus, said the animals are not mistreated.

“The number one thing for our Asian elephants under the care of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey is that they're cared for the right way,” Frisco said.

He said the circus has over 40 elephants, yet only 13 of them make the choice to tour with the circus.

“We don't force our elephants to work, to come out on the show, they show us whether they like being out on Ringling Brothers or not,” Frisco said.

Frisco said the elephants that continue to perform will not be removed until everything is ready for them at the circus’s elephant conservation center, which is why they will continue touring until 2018.

Richmond City Council has been considering a ban on the use of the bull hook for months, but council has not made a decision on the proposed ordinance.