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Caught on Camera: Vet Sees Likely Bullhook Boil on Ringling Baby Elephant

Written by Michelle Kretzer | October 10, 2013

When Ringling invited a camera crew to its “Center for Elephant Conservation” (CEC) in a bid to convince people that the animals aren’t abused, the plan backfired.

Ringling’s PR folks don’t admit that the circus trains elephants by chaining them or tying them up with ropes and beating them with bullhooks or shocking them with electric prods (even though former Ringling trainers and photographs have confirmed the “training” routines). And obscuring those facts was the plan when a morning news crew went to the CEC, where Ringling breeds elephants and trains the babies to be the next generation of unwilling performers. But despite the circus’s best efforts to conceal the abuse, something on the tape caught PETA’s eye.

It appeared as though the youngest baby elephant, 3-month-old Mike, had an abscess near his left hip. We contacted an independent veterinarian who has more than 40 years of experience working with exotic animals, including elephants. The vet identified the abscess as most likely a “hook boil”—caused by Ringling’s favorite fireplace-poker–like “training tool,” the bullhook.

We promptly took the evidence to the Polk County, Florida, sheriff’s office animal control unit, which is responsible for the area in which the CEC is located, and asked it to investigate Mike’s wound. If it finds evidence of abuse, we’ve asked it to prosecute under the Florida law that states that “[a] person who intentionally commits an act to any animal … which results in the … excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, commits aggravated animal cruelty.”

The sheriff’s department is authorized to seize an animal who is found to be abused, and PETA will push for authorities to take action to the fullest extent of the law.

What You Can Do

Please take a minute of your time to weigh in regarding these suffering elephants and push for them to get the retirement that they deserve.

Commenting is closed.
  • Carlos L says:


  • Viola Grodd says:

    NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Louise says:

    Boycot circus. Stop this animal cruelty

  • Sheila brown says:

    The circus is no place for animals. Elephants are intelligent, gentle , social animals. Can you imagine the mother’s heartbreak at watchin g her baby being tortured, and being powerless to help him? Animals love their babies, and want to protect them. Boycott the circus!!

  • diana says:

    Jail to those people! Stooop animal abuse!!!

  • nightsky127 says:

    Protest Ringling every year when it comes to Atlanta. No animal should be enslaved for any reason, including entertainment.

  • barbara klys says:

    i’m not sure why one would go and pay to watch animals be abused ? what’s the payout ? what are you seeking?

  • weam dakwar says:

    Please make something about it!

  • oktay demirer says:

    should be ban all circusses worlwide

  • maria jose cuevas says:

    Piedad con los animales por favor,son lo más inocente y maravilloso de la tierra

  • Patricia O'Connor says:

    Grady Judd, Sheriff of Polk County Florida, is a very well respected, intelligent man. I can only hope that he will address this awful situation and take the appropriate action against Ringling Bros. Circus. That “hook boil” has got to be incredibly painful to that poor baby elephant. TIme for some justice, Grady Judd.

  • Debbie Thorn says:


  • reneearment says:

    PLEASE do not waste your money on a circus! Animals were not meant by God to be beaten into submission or to entertain us. This world is dying fast and man is at fault!!

  • Lois olmstead says:

    I am completely supportive of legal action against these people!

  • Mónica Valdez Flores says:

    Some people are very wild, are in total barbarism. Stop!!!

  • Sonja Alberts says:

    WHAT THE HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is still a baby!!!!! I know God is bowing His head in shame to what has become of mankind!!!! Justice will be done, I know it!!!!!!

  • Tani says:

    Zirkus mit Tieren ist für mich tabu und sollte NICHT unterstützt werden. Kinder sollten lernen den Zirkus mit anderen Augen zusehen. Es ist eben nicht alles “Jööööö und herzig”. Kleine schnucklige Elefanten gehören zu Ihren Müttern, die in der Wildnis leben und mehrere 1000 km in ihrem Leben frei laufen dürfen.

  • Trecia Watson says:

    Get the elephants free of abuse and torment, away from the exploitation of money, greedy abusers.

  • Jocelyne Desforges says:

    Do not take your kids to the circus. You are contributing to the abuse. Let the animals live their lives in peace.

  • BL Nettles says:

    If you buy tickets you support abuse. Put these people out of business.

  • Frey Johnsson says:

    I am all in favour of charging these monsters with aggravated cruelty

  • Sandra Zobaran says:

    As it was said before, the elephants only do the unnatural movements because they are afraid, and with time become crippled. WHAT MORE HAS TO BE SAID ? Unfortunately there are too many humans that just don’t understand the stupidity of all this.

  • janet goodfellow says:

    Ban all circuses ! Respect all animals. I am sickened by what goes on behind closed doors.

  • Suzy Bailey says:

    Outlaw all animal circuses the simple answer

  • Suzy Bailey says:

    Outlaw Animal Circuses!!!!

  • Rahul Sadavarte says:

    all animals including birds as well as fishes belong to their natural environment like humans. Our ecosystem is designed in a certain way that everyone has a free environment to live in. It is our responsibility to protect the natural habitat of these living beings and not to put them in enclosure for display. I hope to see one day where all animals are let free in their natural surroundings…

  • Kim Griffiths says:

    This needs to stop. There is more than enough video evidence showing how these animals are abused. They me to evolve and stop this slavery for “entertainment”. Investigate. Understand that they use a paste to hide wounds. Shut it down.

  • Donnae says:

    SHAMEFUL & DISGRACEFUL !!!!! When training with food or kindness would save you all lllll this trouble! Duh!! You trainers with bullhooks and black hearts-must love to argue and fight in court and with the public-I so hope you get all that you have got coming to you via the Karma bus. Have you ever thought of stopping the abuse and using only human performers? before you go broke? You know the public is turning against you! I am doing all I can for my part to make that happen! Have a broke back! and broke bank acct too? hmmmm Very seriously yours, Donnae

  • CARRIE SMITH says:

    Please stop the abuse and torture of these innocent animals.

  • Judith Fairly says:

    It’s abhorrent that intelligent animals such as elephants are continuously abused and yet authorities refuse to act even when they are presented with direct evidence of mistreatment. It is time to put an end to exploitation of animals for profit.

  • debismills says:

    So very cruel and sickening!

  • Jackie Reckas says:


  • Inge Dueholm says:

    Animals should not be used to entertain people. They should be free and live in the nature!!!

  • Daniela Barbat says:

    Ringling Brothers have abused elephants for decades , they need to be shut down.

  • Robin Vigfusson says:

    Wild elephants belong in the wild, not in circuses! Their suffering is not entertainment!

  • Sara McNamee says:

    You are sick and evil people Ringling. You are sick people who pay to see the circus and perpetuate this torture.

  • Sara McNamee says:

    You are sick and evil people Ringling. You are sick people who pay to see the circus and perpetuate this torture.

  • marzia lovisetto says:

    stop animal cruelty

  • Alexis Kaiser says:

    First of all the vet was Mel Richardson who works for PETA and IDA and is a well-known plantiff for these groups. Secondly the animal control board went out and investigated, it was a wound from rubbing up or against a fence. PETA, you are really trying hard. Go kill some more cats and dogs and throw them in dumpsters

  • Jean Jacobelly says:

    Stop using the bull hook it is cruel.

  • donatella ghia says:

    Vergogna. No ai circhi con animali. Chiudiamoli tutti subito.

  • Richard Schmidt says:

    Please take Action,and have a veterinarian to check all the elephants at Ringling, These poor animals are abused and suffer all life Long, the Circus has to be punished and the elephants taken away and to be send to a elephant sanctuary, please take Action now!

  • Deborah Ellison says:

    This is totally unacceptable. It’s time animals in circuses are a thing of the past. Ringling is notorious for its abuse of animals. I demand it stops and all animals in circuses be retired to an adequate sanctuary.

  • Jacqueline Millar says:

    I am all in favour of charging these greed ridden monsters with aggravated cruelty.

  • hashimoto koichi says:


  • hashimoto koichi says:


  • Renee Vincent says:

    I could care less what lip service and cheap talk Ringling Brothers says. THE ARE LIARS! A few of my issues: 1) BULL HOOK! Sorry but if this is so humane, let me use it on Ringling People. 2)Elephants FORCED!! to do Stupid tricks THEIR PHYSICAL BODIES WERE NEVER DESIGNED TO DO!!! HELLO! This is why they end up crippled at the end of their “careers”. 3) Ever ask what HAPPENS to these Animals when Ringling and other circuses can no longer EXPLOIT them? They might be sold to zoos, sold to be experimented on, or sold to game farms TO BE HUNTED! 4) constant travel in trucks miles after miles after miles. 5) All completely against the Animals Will. 6) Ever ask how these circus including Ringlings acquires these Elephants? They are STOLEN from the Wild and from their Mothers as BABIES. THEN, they are beaten into submission. They intentionally BREAK THEIR SPIRIT! 7) If the Animals do not perform as EXPECTED, what happens to them? They are beaten, starved and severely punished. They do not perform because they want to or love to, they DO IT for fear of what will happen to them IF THEY DON’T! 8) Many of the Animals DO NOT get the immediate medical attention they need. They are again FORCED to perform whether sick in pain OR NOT! There is NOTHING humane about Ringlings or any other circus. They Animals should have been left in the wild with family. How utterly ARROGANT humans are. We are parasitic in nature. We are a disgrace to the planet when we condone or allow this atrocity to happen or continue to happen. SHUT ALL CIRCUS DOWN & RETIRE THE ANIMALS TO SAFE SANCTUARIES. “In studying the traits and dispositions of the so-called lower animals, and contrasting them with man’s, I find the result humiliating to me.” –Mark Twain

  • susanne barry says:

    give those elefant they re freedom let them retire

  • Courtney Scott says:

    Ringling Brothers has been abusing elephants for years and lying about it. Circuses and zoos are spinmeisters supreme. They call a bullhook a “guide”. They say they are “conserving Asian elephants”. They say they don’t use any brutal training methods. But the proof is in this photo, in all the many vidoes, and in the fines levied against them.

  • Ron & Marian Glass says: