Written by PETA
The following is a guest post from Joyce Poole, co-founder of Elephant Voices—an organization whose aim is to increase awareness of the intelligence and wonder of elephants. Joyce has a Ph.D. in elephant behavior from Cambridge University and has studied the social behavior and communication of elephants for more than 30 years. She was an expert witness in the recent trial against Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus. This post originally appeared on ElephantVoices' blog.
In the final days of December, in the case against Ringling Bros. Circus for their abuse of elephants, Judge Sullivan ruled against animal welfare advocates on technical grounds. He did not address the merits of the case nor the expert opinions that we spent years preparing and weeks presenting in court.
This is a hollow victory for Ringling; It certainly isn't a vindication of their brutal training and management practices. The trial brought into the public domain the depth of abuse practiced by the circus. This particular battle has been lost, but although Ringling might think they have achieved a victory, they have in fact been significantly wounded. The war will yet be won as more and more people give their own verdict.
Ironically, the judgment was announced just days after additional abuse of baby elephants surfaced—this time one of Ringling Bros.' own employees blew the whistle, ashamed by his own treatment of baby elephants. You can read and see some of the horrific photos in the Washington Post's coverage here.
I reviewed reams of evidence against Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus as an expert witness, so I am well acquainted with their abusive treatment of elephants. Yet, the late Samuel Haddock's description of the babies' screaming and the harrowing images of their straining against the ropes and chains and being poked, prodded, and manhandled brought tears to my eyes.
The only reason why a bullhook has a steel point is to inflict pain. Deprivation, force, and pain form the basis of the training that baby elephants undergo to perform in the circus. Thereafter, restraint, deprivation, and attempts to avoid pain keep elephants in circuses under constant control.
Elephants in circuses are mere commodities for human entertainment: Prevented from behaving naturally and forced to perform behaviors never seen in nature, they are bought and sold, poked and prodded, separated from companions, confined, and chained on concrete and on trains. It is insincere to allow children to believe that elephants in circuses are living an acceptable life when the evidence for the opposite is overwhelming.
Ringling's treatment of elephants is outdated, ignorant, and inhumane. Progressive Norway intends to ban the use of elephants in circuses. India has already done so. Isn't it time for America and other so-called enlightened countries to follow suit?
Written by Joyce Poole
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?
Written by Karin Bennett
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.
Written by Logan Scherer
Well, sort of. I'll explain.
About 170 audience members at Pagel's Dinner Circus—OK, wait, I must point out how ridiculous that is. I'm all for Dinner and a Movie, but "Dinner and a Circus"? But I digress. During one of the circus's performances this week, 170 horrified audience members witnessed tiger "trainer" Christian Walliser get mauled by three Bengal tigers.
Circus owner Stefan Pagels stated that, because "the show must go on" and because "the tigers did nothing wrong," the animals will not be killed as so many others are when they fight back or run amok. While his claim that the tigers were "playing" with the fallen trainer is ridiculous (hello?), we do agree that the tigers, who are and will always be wild animals, did no wrong. They're huge, strong, powerful animals, and whether in a jungle where they belong or abused in a circus, tigers retain their instincts to hunt, flee, or defend themselves if threatened.
Whether they're being held captive in a barren pit, forced to labor for lazy humans, put on display, or used in photo ops with the public, the only certainty with wild animals who are exploited by humans is that one day, they will fight back.
Today we released a new investigation inside Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus that shows workers on video as they beat and whipped elephants dozens of times in venues across the country. It's an investigation that I helped work on.
Once investigators capture video from an investigation, my job is to review all the footage and meticulously record the abuses and other notable findings. From that, I prepare condensed versions of the video for the public to view and draft complaints to officials, which in the new investigation into Ringling amounted to nine complaints to a total of 20 federal and state offices.
At times, reviewing so much footage can be tedious and extremely upsetting, but it's nothing compared to the relentless suffering that the animals who are used by Ringling are subjected to.
Most of the investigations that I work on involve farmed animals, in which the longest life span is about two years (for a pig used for breeding purposes). Her two years going from gestation crate to farrowing crate and back, over and over, are miserable, but her suffering comes to an end. For the elephants used and abused by Ringling, the suffering can go on for decades, and there's no end in sight—unless PETA and the public can convince the USDA to seize these majestic, elderly psychologically damaged animals.
Many of these elephants have not known anything close to a "natural" life since they were caught in Asia decades before I was born, but now the USDA has the chance to make things right by moving these animals to a sanctuary where they will be able to roam around the vast area that they need in order to be healthy and happy. Our brave investigator has armed the USDA with the information that it needs in order to make this happen and finally end these animals' decades of suffering.
It is an honor to work on all our investigations, which are the heart and soul of PETA, but it has been the highest compliment ever to be able to work with our investigator to document the heartbreaking plight of the gentle giants who are abused by Ringling and give them a chance to escape from their long years of torment and beatings.
Now that we have given the feds more than sufficient evidence to seize these animals, I hope we will finally be able to make history for elephants.
Written by Dan Paden, Senior Research Associate
What do the tigers say when Ringling's trainers get too close? Let us prey. Zing!
Well, this week, PETA's touring "tiger" acted out that devious desire for payback. In Rochester, New York, our "tiger" broke out of his cage and shoved his "ringmaster" in—giving her a taste of her own medicine for our first-ever Tiger's Revenge demonstration.
Written by Liz Graffeo
Yesterday, I found my dog Henry's "bucket list." He's a pretty open guy, so he won't mind if I share:
While the first four aren't really possible (Henry's a licker, not a fighter; he's too short to play Sandy; he's ineligible for the contest; and, well, he has a stump for a tail), American Honda Motor Company's new Honda Element Concept has made number five happen.
Honda has long been a leader in animal-friendly design, first earning a PETA Proggy Award back in 2005—and the company haven't stopped innovating since.
The new "pupped-out" ride includes a cushioned mesh canine containment system for the cargo area and the back seat; safety pet restraints; a collapsible ramp; spill-proof water bowl; a fan; fur- and leak- resistant seat covers; a dog-bone–patterned rubber mat; and a special leash and dog tag.
Puts the "wow" in "bow wow," right? Tongues would totally wag if you pulled up to your local dog park in a sweet ride like this! But don't worry if buying Honda's doggie-mobile isn't doable for you right now. Your hounds don't care what kind of hoopty you drive. All they care about is hanging out with you.
Written by Amy Elizabeth
Not content with forcing just elephants, tigers, and other exotic animals to perform cheap tricks, Ringling's mobile animal hell has added dogs to its list of prisoners. During a recent appearance on The Early Show, goons from Ringling's new magic act, called "Zing Zang Zoom," dragged along a few sad-looking pups to perform ridiculous tricks in the frikken snow. One terrified pooch shivered as he was hoisted up on a small platform about 30 feet in the air and reluctantly jumped onto a small pillow. In the circus, whether you're an elephant, a dog, or a dove, it's perform or else.
While it's supposed to impress us that these dogs are rescues, the truth is that there's more ugliness to the illusions of "Zing Zang Zoom" than just garish costumes. PETA receives complaints from all over the country about dogs in circuses. Many are starved for attention, left in crates until show time. Others are starved, in the most literal of terms, and fed only when they perform properly. We've heard reports that dogs were forced to perform when injured and that pimps "trainers" made dogs walk on their hind legs, even when not performing, causing them to develop arthritis and other problems with their legs.
Congratulations, Ringling—you've managed to take a giant step backward for caninekind. No worries though. Soon, you'll be as washed up as this guy.
Written by Missy Lane
After finding out that Renninger's Farmers and Flea Market in Mount Dora, Florida, was offering rides on a female African elephant named Nosey, we immediately contacted the manager and alerted him to the dangers that elephant rides pose to both elephants and the public. After listening to our concerns and hearing from local citizens, Renninger's canceled the rides. Yay!
Most people don't realize that captive elephants are beaten, chained, and denied almost everything that is natural and important to them. This understandably causes aggression and poses a risk to humans—since 1990, rampaging elephants have killed 13 people and injured 120. Just a couple weeks ago, 12 children were injured by an elephant at the Shrine Circus, and in 2004, Nosey herself hit a Liebel Family Circus employee on the back of the head with her trunk, sending him to the hospital. I'm guessing that the parents who let their children take a ride on Nosey had no knowledge of this attack.
To be fair to Nosey—and all captive elephants—it's pretty clear what they're so mad about. After Nosey's outburst in 2004, the injured man described an incident in which a trainer "used the bullhook handle, turned off the lights in the performance ring, and beat the elephant." The trainer also encouraged others to take part in the abuse by striking her with objects such as a sledgehammer and shovel handles. When the USDA investigated the facility, they found that the Liebel Family Circus was not providing the animals in its care with adequate food, shelter, or veterinary care.
Don't you agree that it's time to put a permanent end to the abuse of elephants in circuses?
Today, lawyers gave their closing arguments in the court case involving Ringling's use of steel-barbed bullhooks and shackles on the elephants it forces to perform. Over the course of the six-week trial, the following evidence was presented:
Check back with the PETA Files in the coming months for an update on the verdict. We hope that the elephants win, but regardless of the outcome, the trial has already generated lots of deservedly negative publicity for this miserable circus. And that's a good thing considering how hard Ringling works to put a misleading, positive spin on clamping elephants in irons, dominating and intimidating them with bullhooks, and confining them to boxcars and arena basements for much of their lives.
Written by Alisa Mullins
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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.