Written by PETA
In a bid to stop Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's reign of terror over animals once and for all by getting the circus's exhibitor's license revoked, PETA has submitted more than 700 pages of evidence to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) documenting not only Ringling's long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act but also the circus's attempts to cover up the circumstances surrounding animals' deaths.
Just one of many examples is Riccardo, a baby elephant whose fatal fall off a pedestal during a training session (he was euthanized after breaking both hind legs) Ringling originally tried to characterize as "routine play." Another example is Clyde, a lion who died of heat stroke after being confined to a sweltering boxcar in Ringling's animal train while it crossed the Mojave Desert in 109-degree heat. A former trainer told PETA that Ringling tampered with the evidence by installing a non-working water misting system in the boxcar after Clyde died and warned him to not talk about the the circumstances of Clyde's death.
And then there are the hours of video that PETA amassed last year—which show Ringling handlers as they beat elephants in city after city across the country—as well as the damning photos taken by a former elephant trainer that show baby elephants as they are "broken" with ropes, bullhooks, and electric prods.
We think that all this adds up to several hundred pretty good reasons for the USDA to yank Ringling's license. If you agree, please take a minute to drop the agency a line.
Written by Alisa Mullins
A reportedly "startled" elephant kicked a circus trainer or groom so hard that he was thrown 20 feet and died of his injuries at the scene. The attack occurred backstage at a Shrine Circus performance Friday evening in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
The elephant involved is believed to be an African elephant named Dumbo, who was captured in Africa in 1985 and belongs to Terry Frisco. PETA has previously caught Terry's brother, Tim Frisco, beating elephants behind the scenes.
No word yet on whether circus mouthpieces are attempting to claim that the elephant was "playing" with the trainer, but if a "startled" elephant can be this dangerous, imagine the damage that a really angry elephant can inflict. It makes the video that we told you about last week—in which a trainer with the Liebel Family Circus holds a toddler in one hand as she uses a bullhook in the other to jab an elephant—all the more harrowing.
This isn't the first time that an elephant has lethally lashed out at the guy wielding the bullhook, and it almost certainly won't be the last. Circuses rely on an abusive training regimen that starts with beatings and intimidation from the time that elephants are still babies and doesn't stop until they've performed their last headstand. Is it any wonder that some of these gentle giants eventually get fed up and fight back?
PETA has been trying to convince the Shriners to stop using animal circuses as fundraisers for years to no avail, despite the fact that their circuses are connected to a growing list of dangerous and deadly incidents involving wild animals. Last year, two elephants performing at the Murat Shrine Circus in Indianapolis, Indiana, knocked down a mobile staircase during elephant rides, resulting in a dozen children being treated by paramedics. In 2005, a trainer was stomped to death by an elephant used in a Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 2002 and again in 2003, elephants bolted from the Shrine Circus tents and went on rampages in Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively. It's sad to think that this tragic list of deaths and injuries has failed to make the Shriners come to their senses.
Update: Recent news reports are claiming that Dumbo was trying to protect the groomer whom she stomped to death. But this happens every time someone is bludgeoned or stomped to death by an elephant or an orca: Those who profit from keeping the animals miserably bound in chains or confined to small pools always say that the animal was playing or trying to protect the person. The public should stand up and say, "Enough! We are not that gullible!" These animals are extremely intelligent. They know when to be gentle, and they know that you don't protect or play with human beings by smashing them into the ground or the bottom of the pool. After a lifetime of being told, "Do this, do that," being hurt with electric prods and bullhooks, and having their food withheld unless they stand on their head or tail, they crack.
Last year, Renningers Farmers & Flea Market in Mount Dora, Florida, banned elephant rides after PETA provided evidence of Liebel Family Circus' long list of USDA violations, its history of animal neglect and abuse, and the unavoidable risks posed by elephant rides. Now we are hoping that Daytona Beach, Florida, will follow suit, thanks to footage taken during Liebel's March visit to the city.
In 2005, Liebel Family Circus entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was assessed a civil penalty of $2,885 for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including failure to provide adequate space and veterinary care for animals, failure to have an experienced elephant handler, and failure to provide a safety barrier between the animals and the public. And it's easy to see why from this footage. Talk about a disturbing picture: An individual who was charged with controlling an elephant named Nosey holds a toddler by one hand and in the other holds a bullhook—a sharp, steel-tipped device that workers use to strike, stab, hook, prod, and intimidate elephants in order to make them obey. Not only that, but at one point Nosey was allowed to pick up a bucket while people were on her back. If she'd decided to throw the bucket, someone could have been seriously injured.
In light of this evidence of dangerous misconduct at Liebel's stop in Daytona Beach, PETA has sent the footage to the city's mayor along with a letter asking him to support legislation to prohibit elephant rides in the city.
In the wild, elephants travel in family groups, and female elephants stay with their mothers for their entire lives. Elephants who are trapped in circuses and forced to live in boxcars and endure years of abuse often become depressed and neurotic. Nosey, Liebel's only elephant, has been with the circus for decades and has already attacked at least one of Liebel's employees. In 2004, Nosey injured a worker, and after you read the worker's affidavit to the USDA, you can't really blame the elephant for her outrage. In the report, the worker recounts the frequent use of electric shock devices on the elephant and details an incident in which a trainer "used the bullhook handle, turned off the lights in the performance ring and beat the elephant. He at the time directed others to take part in that by using other objects such as [a] sledge hammer and shovel handles. At that time, the elephant was staked down by all four legs …." The employee also states that Nosey's attack "was not the first time the elephant had reached or struck out at people who worked at the circus."
Want to help shut down circuses that abuse and neglect animals? Refuse to go and tell your friends and family members to do the same.
Written by Logan Scherer
I got teary again and again watching Jennie Garth's character, Kelly Taylor, grow up on Beverly Hills, 90210—and I got goose bumps when she mamboed on Dancing With the Stars. But when I learned that Jennie asked MomCentral.com to drop its partnership with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, I cheered so loudly that I woke Frank and Tom from their fifth nap of the day. (Sorry, fellas.)
The mother of three was moved to take action after learning about Ringling's abuse of baby elephants, who are snatched away from their wailing, distraught mothers by trainers who slam the babies to the ground, poke and prod them with bullhooks, and give them electric shocks. Asking the site to sever its ties with Ringling, Jennie wrote, "Because Mom Central is a resource that promotes support for all mothers, I implore you to consider the helpless animals who are forced to surrender their children to a lifetime of isolation and pain."
You don't need to have children to be concerned about the dangerous lesson Ringling teaches its audiences—that it's OK to abuse babies who've been stolen from their mothers. I'll be following Jennie's lead and politely asking MomCentral.com to drop Ringling. Will you join me?
Written by Karin Bennett
With the passing this week of Robert Culp, captive animals—and the people who care about them—have lost a true advocate and friend.
Although he appeared in dozens of films and television programs, Culp was best known to baby boomers for his work on the TV series I Spy and to the following generation for The Greatest American Hero. His fans may not have known that, off screen, Culp was a genuine hero for captive animals. In 2007, he filed a lawsuit to block construction of a new elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, citing allegations that the zoo did not provide elephants sufficient veterinary care, confined them in an inadequate space, and used bullhooks and electric shocks on them. Last year, when a judge ruled against him, Culp filed an appeal.
Taken from their families in the wild, elephants in zoos suffer a life of chronic physical ailments, social deprivation, emotional starvation, and premature death. Lack of exercise and long hours standing on hard surfaces are major contributors to foot infections and arthritis, the leading causes of death among captive elephants. Two elephants who died at the Los Angeles Zoo in recent years, Tara and Gita, suffered from arthritis-related illnesses.
We can each pay tribute to this kind and talented man by carrying forward his efforts to help elephants in zoos.
Written by Jeff Mackey
We already know that elephants in the wild lead rich emotional lives, but recent findings about elephant brainpower and a "secret" language of low-frequency sounds have me wondering what these clever animals gossip about in the wild, and I'm going to have nightmares tonight about what the elephants who are beaten by Ringling are trying to tell us.
Among the researchers' conclusions is that while baby elephants will shriek to signal distress, adult elephants shriek only from pain. If you've seen PETA's undercover footage and the photographs from a former Ringling trainer, you know there are a lot of shrieking elephants at Ringling: Mothers and babies shriek as they are dragged away from each other with chains and ropes, babies shriek during violent "training" sessions, and trainers induce plenty of agonized shrieks as they dig their metal-tipped bullhooks into the elephants' sensitive skin.
As one researcher in Kenya said about the elephants he studied, "They've proved to have abilities which have only been found elsewhere in the great apes and humans." If you don't think humans belong chained and beaten in the circus, please don't support circuses that use elephants. Maybe this is how elephants say "thank you."
Written by Heather Drennan
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.
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
My husband choked back his laughter the one time I mentioned that I was a cheerleader way, way back in high school. I wasn't surprised or offended by his reaction—not only did I retire my miniskirts a long time ago, I've also always been a klutz. But back in those days, I could do the splits, no problemo.
Well, I couldn't stop myself from doing cartwheels after I watched PETA's End of Year 2009 video. Miraculously, I did so without knocking over any lamps, but you might consider clearing any breakables before you view.
From celebrity ads and PSAs to our Ringling Bros. undercover investigation and every single demonstration held by our supporters, PETA was a force to be reckoned with in 2009. If that video doesn't have you convinced, check out our first-ever map of accomplishments. Head over there, click around, and read all about the victories, protests, investigations, and other events that helped make a difference for animals last year.
Now that we've cheered PETA's efforts and accomplishments during 2009, let's look ahead: Tell us how you'll be helping animals in 2010.
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.
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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.