Written by Jeff Mackey
PETA is calling for an investigation by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's (USDA) inspector general following the departure of the agency's former deputy
general counsel, Kenneth Vail—the man who was tasked
with enforcing animal protection regulations for the USDA and who has now taken a
job with the Ringling
Bros. circus, which is counted among the
most egregious animal abusers in the country.
Yeah, that doesn't seem shady at all, does it?
Before officially becoming Ringling's paid protector, Vail served
as the USDA's lead legal counsel for animal welfare matters. Yet he repeatedly failed to take enforcement
action against Ringling Bros.—despite a mountain of proof provided by PETA that
exposed flagrant animal
abuse and the concealment of evidence and even when the USDA's own Investigative and
Enforcement Services (IES) recommended seeking penalties.
Vail's failures to seek enforcement against Ringling are
many, including these:
Unsurprisingly, Ringling, a company that abuses and has
killed animals, is notorious for its complete lack of scruples when it comes to
making sure that it gets its way, including procuring the services of well-connected Washington
insiders to sway their former
colleagues and hiring an ex-CIA agent to intimidate critics and spy on and steal from PETA.
It's not surprising that Ringling would like Vail, who
certainly seems to have given the circus special treatment for years during his
government tenure. But even for such a shameless and unscrupulous enterprise as
Ringling, the cozy deal to formally hire Vail to be the circus's "Animal
Welfare Act compliance officer" raises the specter of impropriety. That's
why PETA is urging the USDA's inspector general to investigate whether Vail has
violated (or is currently violating) any federal conflict-of-interest laws.
As a result of PETA's relentless pressure on the USDA to
take action in behalf of these animals, Ringling was recently forced to pay the largest penalty for AWA
violations in circus history—after Vail left the USDA. While this was an important step, the government must now
take action to confiscate the arthritic elephants forced by Ringling to travel
up to 50 weeks a year in filthy, poorly ventilated boxcars and to perform
painful, unnatural tricks.
Never buy a ticket for Ringling Bros. or any other circus that
uses animals, and please join PETA in asking the USDA to confiscate the lame
elephants suffering under Ringling's domination immediately.
PETA has asked the Los Angeles Mayor's Office to immediately
release records related to the city's decision to allow the Ringling Bros. circus to force ailing elephants to perform during its recent stint at the Staples Center despite expert advice
to the contrary and despite apparently breaching the city's own laws.
When Ringling came to L.A. this summer, the city brought in
an independent elephant expert to determine whether the elephants used by the
troupe were fit to perform. Dr. Philip Ensley—associate veterinarian for the Zoological
Society of San Diego for 29 years—issued a critical report after inspecting the elephants.
He advised, among other things, that two of Ringling's
elephants "should be removed from performing" since "Karen and
most likely Nichole as well, suffer from arthritis, which results in chronic
pain, impaired limb function, and are in effect crippled" and that five
other elephants should be removed from performing if Ringling failed to improve
their standard of care because of their histories of foot, toenail, and
musculoskeletal issues, including at least one elephant who "suffers from
… ongoing chronic foot problems."
Dr. Ensley concluded his report by noting that the inspected
elephants "suffer unneeded existing detrimental medical conditions and
should not participate in forced, non species-typical behaviors that are
repetitive rigorous physical activities"—in other words, typical circus
routines—"under the current standard of care and living conditions."
Los Angeles law prohibits the city from issuing a permit to
any circus with animals unless it has first conducted an investigation and
determined "that animals will not be subject to needless suffering,
unnecessary cruelty or abuse" and that the circus will not violate any
state or local law. Los Angeles regulations also prohibit keeping crippled or
painfully diseased animals in the city.
What's more, California law requires that animals who are
"unfit for labor" are not to be used in any way, including in
performances, and prohibits subjecting any animal to needless suffering. But
despite these clear guidelines and Dr. Ensley's unequivocal findings, the city
issued a permit to Ringling and allowed it to illegally force these suffering,
unfit, crippled elephants to perform.
Less Than Full
In an effort to determine why this decision was made, PETA
submitted a public records request to the Mayor's Office. After delaying a
response, the office provided some records but withheld an undisclosed number
of records. PETA believes that the withholding of at least some of these
records may have been unlawful since the reasons given for not releasing the
records don't apply when the public interest favors disclosure.
The reasons for approving a permit for Ringling to use
elephants—whom the city knew from its own
expert to be unfit and suffering from chronic pain—against city
law are clearly of interest to the public, especially at a time when the Los
Angeles City Council is considering legislation to protect elephants used in
circuses. This information is also of interest to PETA, whose campaigners are working
nonstop to end Ringling's abuse and exploitation of animals, so the group has
demanded the release of the improperly withheld records and will consider
taking legal action if denied.
What You Can Do
Even animal-protection laws as seemingly clear as Los
Angeles' don't always do the job. Please start a legislative effort to completely ban circuses and other traveling exhibits in your town or county.
And if a circus with animals is scheduled to perform in your town, make sure that you're ready.
Update: PETA has just received word that
following its submission of evidence of this cruel beating to the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, the agency's Investigative and Enforcement Services has opened
a formal investigation into the matter.
Originally posted June 15:
A security guard has reported that an animal attendant with
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus repeatedly beat a chained
elephant with a bullhook at the World Arena in Colorado Springs shortly after midnight on June 10. A sworn
cruelty complaint has now been filed with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak
The whistleblower, while working as a guard at the arena,
saw a Ringling employee strike an elephant on her leg "with full force"
at least six times in a manner that the whistleblower describes as
"violent," "excessive," "angry," and
"without warning." The attendant continued striking the elephant, who
was chained by two legs, even after she had moved out of his way.
The guard also noted that the large cats traveling with
Ringling were always confined to their cages unless they were performing, that he
did not see any of the animals provided with regular access to water, and that he
was told that the circus does not travel with a veterinarian.
Ringling paid a $270,000 fine to settle charges brought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the
complaints keep coming in.
The man who came forward is a trained veterinary assistant
who had been in the process of filling out a job application to work in an
animal-care capacity for Ringling. After witnessing Ringling's mistreatment of
the animals, he immediately closed his Ringling employment application and
Please take a moment to e-mail
the Humane Society of the Pike's Peak region and urge them to take swift enforcement action against this blatant cruelty.
Written by PETA
The Atlanta City Council voted to prevent the use of bullhooks but only when it
can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they were used in a specific
instance to "discipline" an elephant and that the elephant's skin was
broken, scarred, or otherwise damaged as a result. This is a step backward from
Fulton County's outright ban on the use of bullhooks. This ordinance will not
protect elephants because enforcing it would require that someone not only be there to witness the
abuse, but be close enough to see the actual damage to the elephant's skin. The bullhook would have to break the skin, something a blunt object which causes pain does not always do. Obviously
Ringling hides its abusive "training and handling" from public view, hooks
elephants in places people can't typically see such as under the chin and
behind the ears, and uses gray Wonder Dust to stop bleeding quickly and conceal
wounds. And, broken bones and forming bruises can't always be seen
with the naked eye. Only a ban on the use of bullhooks can protect elephants from bullhook abuse.
Councilmembers Felicia Moore and Natalyn Archibong introduced a total bullhook ban
at the end of Monday's City Council meeting. It will go to the Public Safety
Committee for review before the council can vote on it.
may recall that last summer Fulton County, Georgia, became the largest municipality in the U.S. to ban the use of bullhooks—rods with a
sharp metal hook and point on the end that are used to strike, jab, hook, prod,
and beat elephants on the most sensitive parts of their bodies.
this February, because Ringling Bros. can't force
elephants to perform unnatural and often painful circus tricks without this
torture device and because the circus refuses to get with the times and join
the numerous circuses that don't use elephants, Ringling sued Fulton County to challenge
enforcement of the ban. That lawsuit is ongoing, but in the meantime, Ringling
is pressuring the city of Atlanta to make sure that the bullhook ban is not
enforceable within city limits.
Monday, the Atlanta City Council faces a very important decision—it will decide
whether or not to allow the use of cruel bullhooks in the city. While some
councilmembers support a ban, others are on the fence and are facing tremendous
pressure from the mayor and companies such as Ringling Bros. that make millions
off elephant abuse. But the councilmembers are subject to public pressure as
well, and every e-mail that they receive adds to that pressure.
councilmembers have made it clear that being contacted by the public would be
the most influential factor in persuading them to ban bullhooks. And that's where we need your help for the
elephants! Please take a moment to urge the City Council to do the right thing and put an end to elephant abuse
in the city of Atlanta. Please be sure to note any ties that you have to Atlanta.
Written by Amy Skylark Elizabeth
collars, bondage, and beatings: E.L. James' best-selling novel reads like a circus trainer's handbook. But unlike
the consenting couple in the book, elephants in circuses don't have a choice when
it comes to being dominated. And if beating elephants into submission and forcing them to perform painful
acts isn't 50 shades of wrong, then my safe word's not "PETA."
So as soon as your partner unties you, please
sign this "contract"
to help stop circus cruelty.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
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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.