Written by PETA
Barack, the baby Asian elephant, wasn't even 1 year old when he made his Ringling "debut" last month. Now Barack has been removed from traveling with the circus, and PETA has confirmed that he has contracted a herpes virus infection that may cost him his life. Death from the herpes virus usually occurs within seven days after an acute onset of symptoms that include lethargy, swelling of the head and limbs, and a blue discoloration of the tongue. This frightening disease typically affects elephants under 10 years of age and has an 80 percent mortality rate among captive, Asian elephants.
Stress may be a factor in the development of this virus, which has killed 20 percent of captive-born Asian elephant calves in North American facilities since 2000. Putting Barack on the road to perform in the circus at such a tender age was surely a stressful experience, and we're asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate and, if appropriate, to pursue charges if the agency determines that Ringling violated regulations for handling or veterinary care.
Prior to performances, Barack was led around by rope restraints on his trunk and legs, and during performances he was forced to climb a pedestal while surrounded by trainers carrying bullhooks—weapons resembling fireplace pokers that are used for striking, stabbing, hooking, prodding, and intimidating elephants. Before the circus took Barack off the road, he reportedly became spooked and trampled his trainer, who has been seen in recent weeks wearing a brace on his right leg, presumably as a result of injuries he sustained when Barack ran amok.
If Barack survives the herpes virus, he doesn't have much to look forward to. When he's around 18 months of age, he will likely be pulled away from his mother and subjected to violent training sessions, as depicted in our recent exposé. These fear-based and abusive training methods have contributed to the deaths of two baby elephants: One fled his bullhook-wielding trainer and drowned in a pond, and the other broke both hind legs after falling off a training pedestal. Other baby elephants have also died at Ringling.
Speak up for Barack and all the other baby elephants abused by Ringling by contacting the USDA and asking the agency to investigate.
Written by Logan Scherer
Great news! Thanks to pressure from PETA and kind readers who took action, the St. Lucie County Commission has voted unanimously to ban bullhooks from the proposed National Elephant Center (NEC).
A coalition of zoos plans to use the NEC to breed and temporarily house elephants from zoos that are making meager renovations to cramped urban zoo exhibits, so of course PETA has some serious concerns about the project, since intelligent, social elephants suffer and die prematurely in lonely, inadequate zoo enclosures. But PETA's biggest worry was the intended use of circus-style training, so we're thrilled that the NEC won't be allowed to use "bullhooks"—a weapon resembling a fireplace poker that trainers wield to strike, stab, hook, prod, and intimidate elephants in order to make them obey. By responding to PETA's call to ban bullhooks, the St. Lucie County Commission is taking a big step forward in making the lives of these social, intelligent, and complex animals a little bit nicer.
While the NEC will be bullhook-free, many of the zoos behind its creation—including the Oregon Zoo, Columbus Zoo, and Disney's Animal Kingdom—continue to use this outdated method for "managing" elephants and have a cozy relationship with Ringling Bros., whose trainers subject baby elephants to violent training with bullhooks. In fact, Ringling had announced that it was interested in moving some of its elephants to the NEC. Please join PETA's Action Team to get updates on ways to take action for animals.
PETA recently learned that two of the giraffes the late Michael Jackson used to house at Neverland Ranch have died while living under the apparently neglectful eye of Tom and Freddie Hancock—owners of Banjoko Wildlife Preserve, a pseudo-sanctuary in Page, Arizona—and that at least one of the giraffes may have died as a result of improper feeding and/or exposure to cold temperatures.
Back in 2008, we wrote a letter to Michael Jackson urging him to take responsibility for four giraffes who once lived at Neverland Ranch after we received many complaints from citizens concerned about the giraffes' well-being at their new home at the preserve. At the time, a former volunteer caretaker for the animals contacted us claiming that the giraffes had been kept in 15-foot-by-15-foot "temporary" enclosures since the day they were purchased in 2007.
Shortly before his death, the King of Pop started to clean up his act by planning to leave animals out of his London tour. Now, we're asking the city of Page to confiscate the two remaining giraffes and relocate them to a facility that can provide them with appropriate care before it's too late. Oh yes, we wanna be startin' something.
If you had asked me last week to name my favorite Richard Gere moment, I would have taken a long pause before finally deciding on that scene in the 1980s movie American Gigolo when he shimmied in his boxers as he paired his ties to shirts. What can I say? I've always appreciated a man who cares about his appearance.
Much more so, I appreciate a man who speaks out in favor of compassionate actions for animals—so it makes perfect sense that my new favorite Richard Gere moments happened very recently and in real life. According to the New Zealand Herald, the actor, who is a Buddhist, marched with hundreds of monks and activists to support efforts by Tibetans for a Vegetarian Society to transform Bodhgaya, in the Indian state of Bihar, into a vegetarian zone. "Bodhgaya is a pious place and I want to come here again," Mr. Gere said, adding, "I am with the people who have launched this campaign."
It makes perfect sense that Bodhgaya, believed by Buddhists to be where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment around 500 B.C., be "vegetized" in keeping with Buddhism's message of peace. After all, opposition to the taking of life is a core principle of Buddhism.
The founder of Tibetans for a Vegetarian Society, Tenzin Kunga Luding, notes that Gere's participation in and support of the march "has helped the cause a lot," and he adds, "This most sacred land will act as a model for other places to emulate and will impart more positive influence for the well-being of all humans, animals, and the environment."
Written by Karin Bennett
Mali, an Asian elephant imprisoned at the Manila Zoo, was only 3 years old when she was torn away from her mother and shipped away to live in captivity.
For more than 30 years, Mali has spent her days alone in a barren enclosure with only a small pool for entertainment and relief from the heat. Mali paces her small area incessantly or stands in one spot with her trunk to the ground. Mali has reportedly walked to the edge of her enclosure, reached out her foot in the hope of going farther, and even after feeling empty space, stepped back and repeated this movement, evidence of her boredom, loneliness, and frustration. In their natural habitats, Asian elephants have homes ranges that are between 25,000 and 60,000 hectares, but the entire Manila Zoo measures only 5.5 hectares. Even if Mali's enclosure were doubled or tripled in size, it would still be completely inadequate.
PETA Asia-Pacific has just released a report that documents Mali's bleak existence. The report includes a letter from Carol Buckley, who has more than 35 years of professional experience in the care and management of Asian elephants and who operates The Elephant Sanctuary—the largest rehabilitation and living center for former captive elephants—where she has offered Mali a permanent home.
If swift action isn't taken to save Mali and the many other animals locked up at the Manila Zoo, they may meet the same fate as Sisi—the orangutan who died of cancer last year at the facility. Please sign PETA Asia Pacific's petition requesting relief for the animals at the Manila Zoo and urge everyone you know to do the same.
Before I tell you this story, please go check out our newest exposé on the abuse of baby elephants for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The exposé has been featured extensively in The Washington Post.
Keep those heartbreaking photos in mind as I tell you about Ringling's newest addition to its troupe of miserable, abused elephants. Barack is a baby Asian elephant who was born on January 19, the day before President Barack Obama was sworn into office—hence the name. TampaBayOnline reported that Baby Barack, who is not even 1 year old, just made his "debut" at a Ringling rehearsal at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
It's hard to believe that anyone would use an electric shock prod on an elephant like Baby Barack—or that someone would bind a baby elephant with rope and then slam that baby to the ground—but that's exactly the information presented to us by one of Ringling's own baby elephant trainers, the late Samuel Haddock Jr., who had a change of heart about his nearly 20-year career with Ringling.
In his statement about Ringling's treatment and training of baby elephants, Mr. Haddock noted, "Babies are typically pulled from their mothers around 18–24 months of age. Once they're pulled from their mothers, they've tasted their last bit of freedom and the relationship with their mother ends." He added, "Sometimes [the baby elephants] would start crying when they saw their mothers brought in from outside."
After the terrified babies are torn away from their devastated mothers, they begin a life of bondage and are forced to learn "tricks" such as sitting on tubs and standing on their heads.
Once again: Barack was born in January of this year, meaning that he isn't even 12 months old.
Would President Obama disapprove of the treatment of his namesake? I believe he would. I've posted this information on my Facebook page to let others know that I don't approve of Ringling's elephant abuse. Won't you do the same?
But she wasn't the main course—she was the guest of honor:
Angel came to PETA U.K.'s holiday dinner from Hen Haven—a safe sanctuary for chickens and turkeys who would otherwise have been slaughtered. Feasting on faux turkey, grilled figs, nut roast, and mince pies with new friends sure beats a short, traumatic life on a factory farm.
Our friends at Animal Defenders International (ADI) have just released footage from their undercover investigation of the Great British Circus.
If you're like me, you just had déjà vu. ADI's undercover footage of elephant beatings is sickeningly similar to our footage of Ringling's elephant beatings. That's because the routine abuse of animals in circuses is universal.
While Ringling lies through its teeth about its treatment of elephants, the Great British Circus claims to follow the "code of conduct" set forth by the European Circus Association (a mouthpiece for circuses), which states, "Training must not … cause physical injury or psychological stress" and "… our animals are treated like members of the family … just like your family pet."
Which family? The Manson Family? In my family, we don't twist our cat's tail, and we don't strike our dogs' snouts.
In an alarming twist, Ringling Bros. plans to visit Europe. If you live across the pond, please take action so that Ringling isn't given the chance to swap bullhooks tricks of the trade with its British elephant-beating counterpart.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.