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Tell the USDA: No More Sick Elephants in Circuses!

Elephants in Circus

Tuberculosis (TB) is fast approaching an epidemic rate of infection among captive elephants in the U.S. This often fatal disease can spread through the air, placing anyone—elephant and human alike—near an infected animal at risk of transmission. In fact, a newly released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that seven people contracted the disease from captive elephants at the Oregon Zoo. So why is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) doing nothing to address this public-health issue?

The agency promised in 2012 that it would protect human and animal health by requiring elephant exhibitors to test and treat elephants for TB according to the leading animal-health standards. But then it delayed, and in the meantime, circuses kept sick elephants on the road. In 2014, Ringling traveled with the elephant Banko, who was found to have active TB. In the months that it took to confirm the disease, she potentially exposed other elephants, workers, and countless members of the public to the disease. Banko had been exposed to TB during a tour the previous year, when an elephant named Asia came down with the disease.

Now, despite recommendations by animal-disease experts who have long called for strong regulation of TB in elephants, despite TB outbreaks linked to elephants, and even though cities and states have barred performances because of the disease threat, the USDA has washed its hands of the TB crisis and eliminated any requirement that exhibitors test and treat elephants for the disease.

Please contact Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today and urge the USDA to protect animals and humans by keeping sick elephants off the road!

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