Written by PETA
Zina and Jewel, two aging elephants who have spent nearly their entire lives with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Jewel since 1954 and Zina since 1972), have been "donated" by the circus to the Little Rock Zoo. Some "retirement": The Little Rock Zoo still uses the cruel and archaic free-contact system to control elephants, which means that Zina and Jewel have not escaped the bullhooks and chains.
In testimony during a trial to answer charges that Ringling's elephant handling practices violated the federal Endangered Species Act, the circus's general manager admitted Zina and Jewel (and five other elephants) were all chained by two legs in a concrete barn at Ringling's Florida breeding and "retirement" center for 16 hours a day. Another witness testified that he had to cover more than 20 oozing wounds with Wonder Dust (a gray powder used to camouflage wounds) after Zina was beaten with a bullhook.
Considering the long hours spent chained on hard concrete floors, it's no wonder that Jewel is suffering from severe arthritis. Many of the elephants used by Ringling have joint problems, like Sara, who is far younger than Jewel but already suffering from painful lameness, which will likely lead to arthritis as she ages.
Ringling raked in millions of dollars over the decades that it hauled these elephants around the country, but instead of retiring them to a sanctuary, the circus "rewarded" them by dumping them at a zoo for more years of exploitation.
Please never buy a ticket to the circus, and ask the Little Rock Zoo to stop using bullhooks and chains on elephants.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Tennessee officials agreed with PETA that the Knoxville Zoo should be penalized for allowing handlers to come into direct contact with elephants and has recommended $8,400 in fines in connection with the death of a handler earlier this year.
Since the attack, the zoo has switched to a safer and more humane method of managing captive elephants called "protected contact," in which barriers always separate elephants and handlers. Elephants handled through protected contact are never beaten with bullhooks.
It's time for all zoos to move to protected contact, before another elephant who has suffered one beating too many lashes out against the person holding the bullhook. If you live near a zoo that is still using pain, fear, and force to control elephants, such as the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida; and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California, contact our Action Team for help with launching a campaign to put an end to it.
Sweet Georgia Brown! Or should I say, "Sweet Fulton County Board of Commissioners"? Earlier today, following pressure from PETA, concerned members of the community, and celebrities like Demi Moore, the board approved a ban on the use of bullhooks—batons with a sharp metal hook on the end that are used to hit captive elephants in order to keep them fearful and obedient.
Because elephants traveling to Fulton County can't be jabbed or beaten with these ugly devices, circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and other traveling shows will have to leave them behind.
If you're as happy about this as we are, please send a note of appreciation to the Board and commend it for its compassionate decision.
Interested in campaigning for a similar ban in your area? Contact our Action Team at ATeam@peta.org to get started.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Queenie, an Asian elephant who spent her entire life in captivity, has died at Georgia's Wild Adventures Water and Theme Park at age 59. Queenie was only 6 months old when her owner began training her to water ski—yes, water ski—at a Florida theme park. For 15 years in the '50s and '60s, Queenie performed three or four times a day, accompanied by blasting music. She was then sold to a traveling elephant act and then sold and resold over and over again before ending her sad days at Wild Adventures.
While water-skiing elephants may be a thing of the past, elephants in circuses today lead lives equally as bereft as Queenie's. Baby elephants used by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are torn away from their frantic mothers to be broken and trained for a life of servitude. They spend decades in chains, trying to avoid being hit with bullhooks.
Don't let a circus come to your town unchallenged. Plan a protest (we can help!), contact the sponsors, and write a letter to the editor. Your actions make a difference!
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Another circus, another ailing elephant. After PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about severely underweight elephants traveling with the Hanneford Family Circus, inspectors found that Liz, a 36-year-old Asian elephant, is so thin that her ribs, pelvis, and spine are protruding. Liz also has deformities of one front leg and one back leg that make walking difficult. Although it appears that Liz may not be performing at the moment, Hanneford still hauls this ailing elephant from venue to venue, and witnesses have seen her chained by two legs, unable to take a single step in any direction.
Hanneford Family Circus is often hired by the Shriners to perform as the "Shrine Circus." (The Shriners don't own their own circus—they hire animal exhibitors and other acts.) If your local Shrine still sponsors animal circuses, ask it to stop.
Liz's plight is similar to that of 10-year-old Sara, an emaciated young elephant with Ringling Bros. circus. Sara's face is hollowed, and her bones jut out. She has suffered from chronic lameness for at least two years, but according to the USDA, Ringling has not conducted adequate diagnostics or developed a treatment plan.
Please urge the USDA to order Liz and Sara off the road before it's too late.
I've got some great news and some not-so-great news. The great news is that the Toronto Zoo has heeded the call of animal defenders, including Bob Barker, and decided to close its elephant display, joining more than a dozen other zoos that have done the same thing. What's more, the Toronto Zoo has agreed that it will not send Toka, Iringa and Thika to any facility that uses bullhooks.
The not-so-great news is that instead of sending the elephants to the spacious comfort of a sanctuary, the zoo seems intent on sending them to another zoo. The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California is willing and able to immediately provide these elephants with the many acres of natural habitat that they need to thrive, warmer weather, and the companionship of other elephants. Toka, Iringa, and Thika deserve no less, and we're appealing to the zoo to send them to PAWS.
Another Canadian elephant in desperate need of retirement is Lucy, who spends her days alone in Edmonton's Valley Zoo. Please ask city officials to send Lucy south.
Video footage just released by Animal Defenders International shows trainers with Have Trunk Will Travel—the company that provides elephants for rides at the Santa Ana Zoo—as they strike elephants with sharp metal-tipped bullhooks and shock them with electric prods. PETA has filed multiple complaints against this exhibitor, and we've repeatedly urged Santa Ana officials to end the rides. But so far, the zoo has refused.
The owners of Have Trunk Will Travel—which rents out elephants for movies and commercials and uses elephants in any other way that can make a buck—have defended using bullhooks, which can leave painful welts, abscesses, and puncture wounds, and have indicated that electric prods are a useful training "tool." Elephants who would never do headstands or balance on pedestals—if given a choice—quickly learn to obey or suffer the painful consequences.
Please tell Santa Ana officials to stop supporting abuse like that seen on the video by discontinuing dangerous and cruel elephant rides.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus doesn't always let the public know when an elephant dies, as in the case of 11-day-old Bertha, who was born and died with no recognition, but in a news release issued this week, the circus announced that an elephant named Lutzi—who spent 56 years of her 61-year life with the circus—was euthanized after her health deteriorated.
In a sworn deposition taken during Ringling's 2009 trial to answer charges that its elephant-handling practices violated the federal Endangered Species Act, Ringling's general manager for the CEC admitted that Lutzi and other elephants were chained by two legs on a concrete floor for 16 hours a day.
Ringling is still hauling around Karen, an ailing elephant who has tested positive for tuberculosis, and is forcing her to perform tricks.
Please ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pull Karen off the road before she is added to the ever-growing list of captive elephants who have died too young.
Washington State's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is poised to join 14 other U.S. zoos that have closed or are phasing out their elephant exhibits. The zoo is in the middle of discussions about the future of 48-year-old Hanako and 47-year-old Suki, the two female Asian elephants kept in the zoo.
Elephants have complex needs that simply cannot be met within the cramped confines of a zoo. Elephants need lots of space and stimulation as well as the company and companionship of other elephants. A reputable sanctuary can provide Suki and Hanako with all that and more.
If you live near Tacoma, please let zoo officials know that you strongly support transferring Hanako and Suki to a reputable sanctuary.
PETA recently uncovered that an elephant traveling with the Ringling Bros. circus, 42-year-old Karen, has tested positive for tuberculosis and was banned from the state of Tennessee earlier this year.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented the "high prevalence" of tuberculosis among captive elephants, a serious disease that is highly transmissible from elephants to humans. In 2009 nine people were infected by a TB-positive elephant at a refuge—some who had little or even no direct contact with the infected elephant.
Lota, an elephant who was rented out to circuses, suffered with TB for years before the USDA finally took action that resulted in her being sent to the Elephant Sanctuary, where she spent the last months of her life getting some long-overdue TLC.
Karen is already in poor health. She suffers from painful arthritis and serious foot problems—the leading reasons that captive elephants in the U.S. are euthanized. Late in 2010, Karen and another ailing elephant, Minyak, were both granted a reprieve and permitted to stop traveling, but as of March 2011, Karen is back with Ringling's Blue Unit. She is being forced to perform strenuous and painful tricks, including headstands, that aggravate her condition.
Since Ringling has made it clear it won't give this ailing elephant a break, please ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture—the agency in charge of protecting animals in circuses—to intercede and pull Karen off the road permanently.
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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.