Written by Jeff Mackey
Tony winner and Oscar
nominee Viola Davis has sent a letter to state legislators in Rhode Island urging them to support proposed
legislation to prevent elephants traveling with circuses from enduring bullhook abuse and long periods of chaining. Davis was raised in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and
attended Rhode Island College.
The star of the hotly anticipated Ender's Game hopes the bill will bring about an endgame for the well-documented elephant
abuse by circuses that travel within her home state, including Ringling Bros., Cole Bros., and Piccadilly Circus.
Davis joins Alec Baldwin, Jada Pinkett Smith, Demi Moore, Olivia Munn, and many
others—both famous and not so famous—who have spoken out against the use of
bullhooks and other practices that cause elephants and other animals forced to
travel with circuses to endure great physical and emotional damage.
If you live in Rhode Island, join Viola Davis in asking your state legislators to
support the ban on bullhooks and the chaining of elephants. But no matter where you reside, please do your part to end circus
Written by Michelle Kretzer
The week isn't going so well for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The company had been benefiting from online promotions through Travelzoo, a site that offers discounts and deals on travel and entertainment. But that was before PETA and its supporters stepped in.
PETA sent Travelzoo information about Ringling's long history of animal abuse. We detailed how Ringling was handed the largest fine in circus history—$270,000—by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for dozens of violations of the Animal Welfare Act. We revealed how former circus employees admitted that Ringling trainers routinely beat elephants and jabbed them with sharp metal bullhooks in order to force them to perform.
We are pleased that Travelzoo listened and made the compassionate decision to stop offering Ringling ticket deals. Travelzoo joins Lucky Brand, Denny's, Lukoil, MasterCard, Visa, and Sears, all of which have terminated Ringling sponsorships and promotions. Let's keep going after Ringling until its trainers stop going after animals. Ask the USDA to seize the ailing elephants used by Ringling and transfer them to a reputable sanctuary.
Police are investigating the shooting of an elephant used by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The incident reportedly occurred outside the Bancorp South Arena in Tupelo, Mississippi, early on the morning of April 9. Knowing Ringling's shady history when it comes to animals (some years ago, a trainer traveling with Ringling shot a tiger to death while the animal was locked in his cage), PETA is urging authorities to interview all circus employees carefully. Also, as usual, it appears that no veterinarian was on the road with the circus despite a history of animal illnesses and injuries. So with only the self-interested circus's word to rely on, who knows if the elephant is receiving proper care? PETA has increased the reward for information leading to a conviction in the attack.
Numerous Ringling workers have histories of animal abuse, which is why PETA is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and local law enforcement to look particularly closely at the circus's employees—some of whom have been caught on film beating elephants with sharp, heavy bullhooks and some of whom are the subjects of recent sworn eyewitness complaints about animal abuse—when seeking the culprit or culprits in this incident.
To help authorities find the person or persons responsible for this horrendous act, PETA will be adding up to $5,000 to the $250 reward offered by former 1st Congressional District Rep. Travis Childers. Because shooting an Asian elephant is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act, the FWS is also offering a $5,000 reward.
PETA is also asking the USDA to inspect the injured elephant and ensure that she is receiving adequate treatment. Ringling has a long record of failing to provide elephants used in its shows with adequate veterinary care. The circus commonly travels without a veterinarian—despite the large number of animals it carts all over the U.S.—and the veterinarians it does have often sign off on allowing ailing elephants to perform painful tricks.
Even without the threat of being shot, Ringling's elephants must regularly endure violence and distress. Please urge the USDA to confiscate all the ailing animals from Ringling for placement with reputable sanctuaries. Never, ever patronize circuses that use animals, and tell others to avoid them as well.
Update (April 8, 2013):
Following PETA's complaint that Ramos Bros. Circus was exhibiting exotic
animals in Moreno Valley without a USDA license, Moreno Valley Animal Services "ordered
the circus to stop this activity at the Moreno Valley site" until it has
the proper federal permits.
Originally posted on April 5, 2013, at 10:10 a.m. ET:
PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
and Moreno Valley, California, officials to stop
performances by an unlicensed animal exhibitor. On April 2, the USDA canceled the
Ramos Bros. Circus' license to exhibit animals—without this license, it is
illegal to exhibit animals. Yet Ramos Bros. is performing in Moreno Valley, in violation of federal law.
The circus's disregard for the law is nothing new: The USDA
has previously cited Ramos Bros. for operating without a license. Last year, when
Ramos Bros. illegally exhibited exotic animals in Corona, California, PETA
notified city officials, who took immediate action, ordering the circus to remove the prohibited animals
from the city.
Ramos Bros. has a horrible track record when it comes to taking
care of animals. In January, the USDA issued it a warning for violating the
Animal Welfare Act after a 4-year-old camel ran into the street, endangering
both herself and others. PETA has received numerous reports that Ramos Bros. ties
animals up so tightly that they cannot stand, forces them to live in urine- and
feces-covered enclosures, and fails to provide them with adequate water and
The abuse of animals is not entertaining. Please enlist everyone you can to help us
end cruelty to animals in circuses and enjoy animal-free
A source close to John Cuneo, the owner of infamous circus supplier Hawthorn Corporation, has leaked information to PETA that we hope will convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to revoke Hawthorn's exhibitor license permanently and to seek criminal charges against Cuneo as well as Lance Ramos, an unlicensed exhibitor who has repeatedly abused and neglected exotic animals and who, according to the whistleblower's testimony, was unlawfully hired by Hawthorn.
Hawthorn breeds tigers and leases them to circuses around the world. It has provided Shrine circuses, Cole Bros. Circus, Jordan World Circus, George Carden Circus, Hanneford Circus, and Tarzan Zerbini Circus with tigers. The whistleblower gave PETA firsthand information about pervasive abuse and neglect of animals and apparent violations of federal law, including the following:
These allegations are just the latest in Hawthorn's long, sordid history of cruelty to animals. Please join PETA in asking the USDA to take the appropriate disciplinary action, including revoking Hawthorn's license to exhibit animals.
We have some news to share about a case that we've mentioned recently: Disreputable animal exhibitor Hugo Liebel, facing a hearing next week in Florida, has instead
settled with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding 33 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—several of which sprang from charges that followed
PETA complaints to the agency.
The USDA's consent decision orders Liebel to stop violating
the AWA and to pay a civil penalty of $7,500. While it's encouraging to see
Liebel called to account for causing so much suffering, the fine is vastly inadequate
in light of the severity of his abuse and negligence. (Liebel faced a maximum
penalty of $330,000 as well as possible license revocation.)
More critically, it leaves Nosey the elephant and other animals—as well as the public—in danger from his well-documented recklessness and
disregard of even minimal welfare guidelines.
PETA has been filing complaints against Liebel for nearly a
decade—more than a dozen of them since 2009 alone—about Nosey and the other
animals traveling with Liebel. Yet despite multiple citations, he has
habitually abused these animals. So PETA is calling on the USDA's inspector general
(IG), Phyllis K. Fong, to investigate the settlement.
Over the past two decades, the IG's office has issued four
audit reports finding that USDA penalties were so low that they provided no
deterrent effect and that AWA licensees view them as merely one of the costs of
doing business. Despite assurances that the agency would address this issue
following the last audit, Liebel's settlement makes it clear that the problem
Please join PETA in urging the IG to investigate the USDA settlement
with Liebel and require penalties strong enough to curb animal abuse by
exhibitors. Send polite e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 2: Thanks for your calls and e-mails in Nosey's behalf. We have learned that Nosey is no longer
appearing with UniverSoul Circus. PETA will, of course, continue to monitor her
situation, and we'll post updates here. Please learn more about ways to help animals used for entertainment.
Update: As UniverSoul
Circus prepares to force Nosey to perform next week in Tallahassee, Florida,
actor Cheryl Hines has written an urgent letter to the manager of the North Florida Fairgrounds
imploring him to cancel the ailing elephant's appearances. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has also added his
voice in a plea to stop UniverSoul Circus from allowing Nosey to perform. Local activists have
also planned to demonstrate at the fairgrounds in Nosey's behalf.
Originally posted on February 20th, 2013:
Can you help us help Nosey, an ailing elephant exhibited by Hugo Liebel? Recent photographs of her led an elephant expert to conclude that her health is worsening, and PETA is calling on local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to confiscate Nosey, who will soon be forced to perform with UniverSoul Circus.
The photos were taken during a recent Liebel Family Circus show in Davenport, Florida. (PETA had urged Davenport officials to cancel the show, but they failed to act to protect Nosey.) Upon review, a veterinarian with decades of experience treating and caring for elephants determined that Nosey's painful skin condition continues to deteriorate and that she is suffering as a result.
In addition to these welfare concerns, records just obtained by PETA reveal that Nosey tested positive on a StatPak test for tuberculosis (TB) antibodies in January 2012. A positive test can be an early indicator of TB infection, which is highly transmissible between elephants and humans. Indeed, direct contact with a TB-positive elephant is not necessary for transmission of the disease. This is particularly worrisome given Liebel's record of unlawful unsupervised and dangerous contact between Nosey and the public.
Liebel has been abusing and neglecting Nosey for years. PETA has been filing complaints against the circus with the USDA for nearly a decade—more than a dozen of them since 2009. In March, Liebel is set to face almost three dozen formal charges for violations of the Animal Welfare Act—most of them relating to Nosey, including repeatedly chaining her so tightly that she could barely move and repeatedly denying her veterinary care.
Upon learning through a public records request that UniverSoul Circus planned to use Nosey in its Florida shows, PETA implored UniverSoul CEO Cedric Walker to spare the suffering elephant but has received no response, so the group is stepping up its campaign to get Nosey the help that she so desperately requires.
Update: PETA has now
confirmed that the USDA has not one but two
open investigations into AWA violations by the Hawthorn Corporation: one prompted by PETA's complaint regarding Hawthorn's use of Lance Ramos (see
below) to unlawfully exhibit tigers in violation of the USDA's revocation of Ramos' license and the other arising from a separate
case in Florida. Please urge the agency to follow the lead of governments
around the world in defending animals against abuse by circuses and exhibitors by permanently revoking
Originally posted on February 8th, 2013:
As PETA has learned from years of working to free animals
from Hawthorn's cruel clutches, calling Hawthorn "notorious" is actually
putting it rather mildly. The exotic-animal exhibitor's reprehensible history
of AWA violations include USDA citations issued on more than 60 occasions for Hawthorn's
many failures to provide animals with proper veterinary care, nutrition, safe
or sanitary enclosures, safe or humane handling practices, exercise, and adequate
The USDA's previous enforcement actions against Hawthorn
have entailed multiple license suspensions, more than a quarter of a million
dollars in penalties, and confiscation or ordered surrender of at least 17
exotic animals. None of these actions have done anything to ensure even adequate treatment of the animals
Hawthorn forces to perform.
The USDA has recognized that continuing to fail to adhere to
minimum standards of sanitation and feeding—both of which are chronic problems
for Hawthorn—are violations for which an AWA license should be revoked. Yet the
USDA appears to be granting Hawthorn preferential treatment by repeatedly renewing
Someone whose license was
permanently revoked is animal trainer Lance Ramos (aka "Lancelot
Kollman") after AWA citations for, among other cruelty, using physical
abuse as a "training tool" on exotic cats to the point that at least one
of them died and denying adequate veterinary care to an elephant so severely
emaciated that he was a full ton underweight when the USDA confiscated him. Despite this, Hawthorn brought Ramos on board to train and exhibit tigers, and
PETA has provided evidence to the USDA that he recently illegally exhibited the big cats with a Shrine circus and Showfolks
Every day that Hawthorn remains licensed is a day that
animals are suffering. Please send a polite e-mail to USDA General
Counsel Ramona Romero urging the agency to revoke Hawthorn's license immediately
and permanently disqualify its employees and agents from obtaining a USDA
Written by Jennifer OConnor
Nearly 10 years after she
was liberated from the sweltering hell of a Mexican circus, Alaska, the bear who was the
impetus for the eventual seizure of all seven bears held captive by the Suarez Bros. Circus, has died at the Maryland
Zoo in Baltimore. Estimated to be in her late 20s—old age for a polar
bear—Alaska was euthanized because of kidney failure.
It almost sounds like an Onion spoof—polar bears in a Mexican circus. But it was no joke.
The Suarez Bros. Circus—which, coincidentally, is in the news this week after a
handler was mauled to
death by a tiger—was hauling the dejected bears around Mexico and the
Caribbean in cramped cages without access to water for swimming, something that
polar bears desperately crave. A whistleblower leaked videotape showing the
overheated bears pacing in small cages and panting constantly. The bears where
struck and whipped in order to force them to perform ridiculous tricks.
PETA dug into the bears' backgrounds and
uncovered evidence indicating that Alaska may not have been born at Zoo Atlanta,
as the circus had claimed on her import application. After we reported our
suspicions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the service used DNA
testing to prove conclusively that Alaska's identity had been "stolen,"
a violation of federal law. The FWS fined the circus $120,000 and sent Alaska
to the Maryland Zoo, where she lived with fellow polar bears Magnet and Anoki.
When Alaska first arrived
at the zoo, she was sick, lethargic, filthy, and, her caretakers soon learned,
deaf. Free at last from the cramped cage, she explored her surroundings and
swam in a pool for the first time in years. Rancid scraps were
replaced with wholesome, healthy food. There were no more frightening and
confusing tricks. Alaska's battered body and broken spirit began to heal.
Alaska is an inspiring example
of how animals can recover from years of deprivation if given the opportunity.
Her courage and dignity should stand as testament to all the animals whose
health and sanity are sacrificed in the name of "entertainment" in circuses. May she rest in peace.
PETA has fired off a letter urging Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin, to ban elephant exhibitions following news reports that the museum brought in four elephants—one of whom had recently been exposed to a tuberculosis-positive elephant. The elephants were supplied by the notorious Carson & Barnes Circus, which did not have permits to take the animals into the state. Wisconsin requires import permits for exotic animals and prohibits transporting animals who may carry communicable diseases as well as all public contact with such animals.
Not only do many elephants carry the human strain of tuberculosis, contrary to Carson & Barnes' misinformation and as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they also can easily transmit it to humans, even without direct contact. For example, tuberculosis carried by an elephant was recently linked to an outbreak in Tennessee among nine humans, some of whom had had no direct contact with the elephant. Elephants used in traveling exhibits like those going to Circus World are particularly at risk—the stress of traveling and performing make them more susceptible to the disease and more likely to develop a severe infection.
In addition to its total disregard for public health and state law, Carson & Barnes has a long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In late September, it paid a penalty for 10 violations of the AWA, including endangering the public and elephants. Carson & Barnes' "animal care" director was caught on video viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook, shocking elephants with an electric prod, and instructing trainers to embed sharp metal hooks into the elephants' flesh until the animals screamed in pain.
Last year, Circus World hosted the Liebel Family Circus, which was recently charged with almost three dozen violations of the AWA.
The charges against Liebel include keeping an elephant named Nosey—who appeared at Circus World—chained so tightly by two legs that she could not lie down and could barely move, repeatedly denying her adequate veterinary care, potentially exposing her to serious infections by allowing manure to accumulate in the overgrown soles of her feet (foot ailments are the leading reason why captive elephants are euthanized), and repeatedly allowing unsupervised public contact with Nosey, who once hit a Liebel employee on the back of the head so severely that he required hospital treatment for the injury.
Abuse is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to forcing elephants to perform tricks, and elephants pose an inherent threat to human safety and health—from both disease and dangerous outbursts because of prolonged frustration. That's why more and more cities are prohibiting or limiting circuses with exotic-animal acts, including nearby Dane County (which includes Madison), where an ordinance prohibiting elephant exhibits was recently passed.
Circus World needs to get with the times and consign human endangerment and cruelty to animals to the scrapheap of history. Because our pleas to Circus World Executive Director Steve Freese have been ignored, please join PETA in calling on Ellen Langill, president of the Wisconsin Historical Society Board of Curators—which owns Circus World—to stop exhibiting elephants.
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.