Save Animals

The Only Difference Between Ringling Bros. and SeaWorld

1. Stolen From Their Homes

Baby-Elephant-and-Baby-LolitaOrca Image: © Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. both make money from exploiting and abusing animals who were stolen from their homes in the wild or born into their breeding programs in captivity.

2. Separated From Their Families

SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. both separate babies from their mothers. In the wild, baby orcas and elephants stay with their mothers for long periods of time—often for life. But neither company allows animal families to stay together.

3. Imprisonment


SeaWorld forces orcas to spend their entire lives inside tiny tanks, while elephants with Ringling Bros. spend long periods of time—sometimes days—chained in tiny boxcars while on tour. In the wild, orcas would swim up to 100 miles a day and elephants would walk up to 30 miles a day.

4. Shortened Life Spans

Despite claims that the animals are well cared for, orcas and elephants at SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. have significantly shorter life spans, on average, than they would in the wild.

5. Unnatural Behavior

Elephants with Ringling Bros. and orcas at SeaWorld display unnatural and repetitive behavior as a result of their constant confinement and lack of enrichment. For example, elephants used in circuses exhibit behavior known as “zoochosis,” in which they sway from side to side or bob their heads up and down. At SeaWorld, desperation and boredom have caused orcas to gnaw on the concrete sides of their tanks, which breaks their teeth.

6. Trouble With the Law

The U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered Ringling Bros. to pay a $270,000 fine—the largest civil penalty ever assessed against an exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—while SeaWorld was cited for a serious violation of workplace safety laws after an orca killed trainer Dawn Brancheau. SeaWorld has also been cited for violations of the AWA, including for having medical supplies that had been expired for a decade

7. Misleading the Public

Both SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. claim to be making contributions to education and conservation, but less than 1 percent of SeaWorld’s revenue in the last decade has been spent on conservation, rescue, or rehabilitation efforts. There’s absolutely nothing to be learned about animals from watching them perform pointless tricks and display other unnatural behavior. None of the elephants or orcas from the companies’ breeding programs has ever been released into the wild. SeaWorld has even given the public false information about animals, like saying that collapsed dorsal fins are “normal.”

8. Countless Suffering Animals


SeaWorld uses a number of other suffering animals besides orcas, including other dolphins, seals, and penguins, while Ringling Bros. uses tigers, llamas, dogs, horses, and other animals, in addition to elephants.

9. Teaching Cruelty


SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. both use business models that teach children that it’s OK to enslave and abuse animals. Let’s be honest: The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park or a circus that uses animals is how miserable life is for the animals who are forced to perform in them.

10. Public Safety

Dolphin Bites Girl Gif

We recently discovered that Ringling Bros. has had elephants who are infected with the human strain of tuberculosis on the road. And children have been injured by dolphins at SeaWorld.

11. Pointless Tricks


SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. both force animals to interact with trainers and perform unnatural routines with them for the “entertainment” of people in the crowd.

12. Dangerous

In addition to the dangers faced by animals held captive by these companies, employees of both SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. have been injured or killed on the job.

13. Poor Animal Health


Orcas at SeaWorld have collapsed dorsal fins and often broken teeth and severe dental infections, while elephants at Ringling Bros. often suffer from painful foot problems and arthritis, which are the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized.

14. Babies Die

Baby animals die at both SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. So far, not including stillbirths, 36 orcas have died at SeaWorld parks—and not one died of old age. Many of them never even made it past their fifth birthday. Meanwhile, at least four baby elephants have died at Ringling Bros. since 1992.

15. Denying Freedom

Happy-Elephants-and-OrcaOrca: ©

There are viable options for both Ringling Bros. and SeaWorld to release the animals they hold captive to sanctuaries, where they can live out the rest of their lives happily and in as natural a setting as possible.

16. Widely Protested


For years, the public has widely protested against both SeaWorld and Ringling Bros. as concern has mounted over the well-being of the animals held captive by each.

The Difference

While SeaWorld refuses to take any positive steps for the animals at its marine parks, Ringling Bros.’ announcement that it will phase out elephant performances by 2018 means that the “Cruelest Show on Earth” may have started listening to the public and PETA.

If Ringling Bros. can phase out its use of elephants in performances, SeaWorld can phase out its use of orcas—and it should.

What You Can Do

Urge SeaWorld to retire the orcas and other animals to seaside sanctuaries, and tell Ringling Bros. that the elephants currently suffering on the road deserve to be retired now and sent to a true sanctuary!