Written by Jeff Mackey
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.
Less than a year after a security guard reported the abuse of a chained
elephant by a bullhook-wielding Ringling Bros.
circus handler in Colorado, an employee at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum—a venue
where PETA captured Ringling bullhook use on video as part
of a 2009 undercover investigation—has reported more bullhook abuse during Ringling's March 2013 tour there.
PETA's 2009 investigation of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus found that workers were beating, whipping, and hooking elephants and striking tigers.
Based on the whistleblower's affidavit, PETA has submitted a
complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with an urgent
request for the agency to inspect Ringling while it remains in New York
(through April 3). The arena staffer—who also noted that she saw no exercise pens set
up for the tigers—complained to the Nassau County District Attorney
Office's animal-cruelty unit, which is investigating.
What You Can Do
Hasn't being slapped with the USDA's largest-ever penalty against a circus for violations of the Animal Welfare Act deterred Ringling
from abusing elephants? Please politely urge USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to finally seize Ringling's
suffering elephants and transfer them to a reputable
Written by Michelle Kretzer
of the throngs of people who had gathered outside to protest, it was hard to spot
those who were trickling into Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Ringling Bros.
circus's opening night. More than 200 animal advocates came together to make
sure that Ringling's reception was chillier than a New York winter.
half the group circled the block, hoisting signs and chanting, the other half flanked the crosswalks and handed leaflets and educational coloring
books to parents and children.
any of the attendees weren't aware of how Ringling abuses animals, they certainly were after they saw the behind-the-scenes photos of trainers
slamming baby elephants to the ground,
gouging them with steel-tipped bullhooks, and shocking them with electric prods. And if that didn't do the trick, the
screening of PETA's video
exposé narrated by Alec Baldwin, which showed trainers beating and tormenting
elephants, moments before a performance likely did.
of the advocates plan to return to the Barclays Center every night that the
circus is in town to make sure that everyone in the Big Apple gets the message
about cruelty under the big top.
Following multiple investigation requests from PETA, the Chicago Inspector General (IG) launched a probe of the city's regulation of circuses and other animal exhibitors. Now, the IG has released its report, with recommended changes to licensing and permitting procedures.
Behind-the-Scenes Scandal at Ringling
Public records about Chicago's inspections of the notoriously inhumane Ringling Bros. circus in November 2010 documented numerous untreated medical conditions that appeared to clearly violate state and local animal protection laws. So in December 2010, PETA filed an investigation request asking that the IG determine why, in the face of compelling evidence of cruelty and neglect, the City of Chicago did nothing to provide relief to suffering animals or to hold Ringling responsible for its actions.
As detailed in PETA's request, several issues were noted during the 2010 inspection:
Despite this unequivocal information, no action was taken, and these elephants were forced to perform 20 times during Ringling's Chicago stand. In November 2011, PETA followed up with the IG's office to renew its request for an investigation.
Now, just before Ringling's 2012 Chicago appearances, scheduled for November 4 to 25, the IG has issued a report calling for changes in the way that the city handles circuses and other animal exhibitors, recommending the following:
The report also notes that under a new ordinance, the executive director of ACC has "additional discretion to work with a permittee to correct any violations or to issue fines or impose summary closure upon a finding of imminent hazard to the health of the animals."
PETA will be following up with the city, particularly in light of the fact that Nichole, Karen, and Sara are all scheduled to appear in Chicago again over the next few weeks and a recent independent expert's inspection report reveals that these animals' health still remains of significant concern.
Please take a minute of your time to help spare Karen, Nicole, and Sara from additional suffering by politely urging Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack to stop folding to pressure from Ringling and to immediately seize these ailing elephants before it's too late—foot disorders and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanasia in captive elephants.
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.
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 Alisa Mullins
Who says cats can't edit? PETA's office
cats Marshall and Bubbles seem to think
that our Ringling slogan
needs a rewrite.
As far as we're concerned, this is as
close as cats should ever get to Ringling.
Rather than follow in Rio Rancho's compassionate footsteps, the New Mexico
State Fair has decided to allow Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
to perform on the state fairgrounds from June 1 to 3 despite Ringling's long
history of animal abuse and the vocal opposition of many citizens. You can
express your disagreement with the state fair's decision by calling the general
manager of the state fair, Dan Mourning, at 505-222-9739 and politely telling
him that Ringling should not be allowed to perform on the state fairgrounds. You can also
follow up your call with an e-mail to Mourning.
Ringling just got its bell rung, courtesy of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The circus was scheduled
to perform in the city in June, but because of Ringling's sordid history of
violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and its recent $270,000 fine from
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the city refused to issue Ringling a
permit to perform.
James Preston|cc by 2.0
Just last year, Rio Rancho added a
provision to its animal ordinance barring any animal shows that had been fined
by the USDA in the past five years or cited for violating the AWA in the last
three years. Since Ringling just paid the largest fine in circus history last year and racked up 10 violations of the
AWA in the past three years, it certainly didn't pass muster. PETA has sent a
thank-you letter to the city.
Ringling is trying to haul "The Cruelest Show on Earth" to the state
fairgrounds in Albuquerque. PETA is appealing to the Tingley Coliseum at the
fairgrounds, detailing Ringling's long history of animal abuse and urging the venue to block the circus just as Rio Rancho has.
state fair officials at 505-222-9700 and politely urge them not to allow
Ringling to perform. You can follow up your call with an e-mail to the general manager of the
state fair, Dan Mourning.
In advance of the Ringling Bros. circus' stop in Baltimore
later this month, Jada
a proud native of Charm
has written to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urging her to make sure that the
city's absolute ban on the use of any "mechanical, electrical, or manual
device that is likely to cause physical injury or suffering" to induce or
encourage an animal to perform is enforced, according to Baltimore City Health
Code § 10-407(a), to prohibit Ringling from using bullhooks
In her letter, Jada explains, "Unlike me and other actors, elephants
do not choose to perform. They are often violently coerced by Ringling's
trainers with bullhooks, which are jabbed into the sensitive areas of their bodies."
Using bullhooks on elephants in Baltimore would be against
the law—not that the violation would be a first for Ringling, which was slapped with a record $270,000
for abuse of animals in circuses, stemming from dozens of violations of the
Animal Welfare Act all the way back to 2007.
Join Jada Pinkett Smith, Cloris Leachman,
and many more kind people in demanding
action to protect the elephants abused by Ringling.
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.