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Elephant Screams and Cries During Training

Written by PETA | March 8, 2011

A photojournalist spent days riding through the Burmese jungle on a motorbike in an attempt to capture on film how elephants are “trained” before being smuggled out of Burma and sold into slavery to perform in circuses and street shows in Thailand. Brent Lewin’s prize-winning photograph is leaving viewers horrified in disbelief.

During the training session that Lewin witnessed, a baby elephant tried in vain to turn away and shield herself from the blows. Her mother was tied up where she could see what was happening. Lewin said, “I’ve never heard an elephant scream like that before ….” The baby was beaten until she began to cry, her spirit broken. During these training sessions, animals are typically tied up and beaten for days. Says Lewin, “There was a point when the elephant just resigned to what was happening and stood still, the life in her eyes disappeared. It was a look that was haunting.”

Elephants who are forced to perform in any type of act are beaten until they comply. Please, don’t patronize any elephant act at home or abroad. To help elephants forced to perform in the U.S., please send an e-mail to the USDA asking the agency to enforce the Animal Welfare Act in cases of violations by groups such as Ringling Bros.

A baby elephant is trained at Ringling’s breeding center.

Written by Michelle Sherrow

Commenting is closed.
  • jonzey25 says:

    today i drove past the place where they were having a show and i cheered on all the members of the peta street team i hope to join the out there next time!!!

  • Panther says:

    Poor Baby! How could they do that to such a young animal??? Omg………they do need to be shut down. Or at least use acts without animals!

  • Blazing Soul says:

    Honestly, I feel terrible for these animals. Those trainers have no right to be abusing a baby animal like that. I strongly believe this all needs to stop. I will NEVER go to an animal circus ever!

  • Jewel Rainbow says:

    This is appalling – here we have white men and a young woman participating in the torture of this helpless baby elephant SHAME ON THEM! You can hear the girl laugh and a man say “F*** you, bad-ass” to a BABY animal. SHUT THEM DOWN NOW WORLDWIDE AND PROSECUTE THESE PEOPLE DOING THIS IN BURMA!

  • Dolores Paddock says:

    THis practise needs to be stop NOW! It is barbaric and inhumane.

  • rebecca says:

    I am so upset. I attended the circus tonight with my family and was given some information on the way out of the circus telling me that they abuse the animals. I was shocked. I guess I never questioned how they ran the circus. I am absolutely disgusted. I will not return to the circus again.

  • Suzanne says:

    There are no words for how cruel and unnecessary this is. These animals endure such suffering every night all for “our entertainment”. I am outraged, disgusted, and heartbroken for these beautiful creatures. Elephants are not ours for the taking.

  • thecaptain says:

    I am totally disgusted by the scenes in these videos and it honestly makes me never want to attend the circus again. IDK how people can beat animals and be okay with it. I had a dog that was beaten and literally thrown away and due to the abuse she suffered she was crippled for her entire life. It makes me want to cry when I see defenseless animals being harmed. I wish I was able to donate some money to this cause however I am not able to do so at this time.

  • iluvelephants says:

    even as a teenager, my parents never took me to the circus because they didnt want to support this kind of animal abuse. I was glad, but now I am even more glad because I have seen the awful, cruel things that go on behind the scenes. Now I know why they wouldn’t tell me how they treated the animals; it’s too graphic for even a teenager.

  • stephsimp says:

    Razvan,you are on a PETA site! Poor people are sad and I regularly help the less fortunate,my passion is these animals.I am not really sure what diamonds have to do with abusing elephants.Perhaps you should be commenting on a human rights site instead of this one.While your opinions are valid they really have no place on this site.Let’s stay on the task at hand and shut down these **** circuses!

  • Kelly says:

    This is just a little pet peeve i have. The video of the beatings i saw the handlers had on tuxedos that irritated me so much,like people are gonna say he’s dressed good so he couldn’t be a monster he couldn’t beat an elephant. Hey Ringling they are monsters so at least save your tux budget. I mean why try to dress up the barbaric acts of cruelty.

  • BoogieBear says:

    This is horrible!

  • Risa says:

    Even though im a kid i cant stand this i hate when people hurt animals!!!!!!!!

  • Ray says:

    Can someone please give me a whip & a sharp hook so I can inflict the same cruelty on all of those humans involved in such atrossities I’ve decided to make it my life long ambition to get back at these inhumane people

  • confused says:

    to razvan: youre on the peta website for a reason…we care about how animals are treated. youre comment is a bit overboard. many of us are aware of the many injustices going on in the world. some people are most passionate about animal welfare, something thats as respectable as standing up for any other cause. i can see where these other people are coming from…i love elephants and am very passionate about their care. its hard to remain calm and dignified when a picture or a video shows such awful abuse, especially in the name of entertainment. if you dont feel people should have strong opinions toward animals, maybe you shouldnt be on the PETA website…what did you think youd find??

  • Annelies says:

    Totally disgusting, animal cruelty at its best. These animals should be out free in their own environment. In regard to being concerned about people loosing their jobs if there are no animals in a circus, does this warrant cruelty and abuse to animals. I think not. There is work out there if people are willing to find it – preferably where there is no cruelty to animals.

  • Razvan says:

    @HalleBalleDog & BethsBabies & all others: it’s tragic indeed. the article shows one more time the cruelty which resides in human beings. in us, in fact – we (the readers of this article) are human beings, too… some of us are beating elephants for economical reasons, others are beating horses for fun, others are keeping wild animals in our homes for no reason instead of letting them live in their natural habitat (do they still have such a thing???), and the rest of us are eating everything that lives (maybe not other humans, i hope)… that is cruelty, too… yet, these are not the cruelest acts of the humans. i seached the internet for “cruelty” word. the most of articles referes at human to animals cruel acts. i hardly found an human to human cruelty article. do you like diamonds? maybe we don’t have diamonds, but all of us are fascinated by them. do you know that in diamonds mines of south africa – such a rich country and still such a poor one – are working for almost nothing kids like yours and mines? would you still buy a diamond ring if you would know that after a loooong working day of work (in a mine!!!), that 13, 14, 15 years old kid had nothing to eat? is that cruelty or what? what about that hollywood stars that wears diamonds of millions dollars, money that could feed all that kids and their families for a long period of time… i find this cruel, too.. do you know how many kids are dying from starvation every year in india and around the globe? would you still throw away half of your food to the garbage? would you still buy non value things instead of helping someone to live one more day? isn’t it cruelty when you carelessly pass along watching in other direction when you see the next street corner beggar? i think it is… what about wars? do you agree with UN decisions of invading countries like libya or iraq for freeing its population from dictatorship? i found this interesting article: “People rationalize cruelty and causing the suffering of others in a variety of ways, most of which creates some kind of distance between the individual and the victim. With wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, the massive suffering of civilians, a child who loses her parents at a checkpoint because her parents appeared suspicious, or a family who loses a toddler in Afghanistan because a bomb goes astray becomes easy to dismiss as ‘part of war.’ By labeling it ‘part of war,’ it becomes something different, something more like an act of nature than an act of human cruelty. That’s an illusion — war is a choice, and if it’s not a war of direct self-defense, it is a choice with tremendous moral implications. Yet most people avoid thinking about that, it’s rationalized as ‘going after a dictator’ or ‘beating extremists,’ with the human costs somehow defined away by such abstractions. And it works. People think more about their own soldiers killed in war than the massive suffering of innocents, and even see support for such actions as patriotic and honorable. Not that these aren’t good people; rather, good people are able to justify and accept cruelty with the proper distance.” ( we should fight peacefully against all these cruel acts. we should carefully analize our behavior regarding the other humans – men, women and children of every nation and culture and opinion and religion and whatever… we should carefully analize our behavior regarding the animals… we should understand that our liberty shouldn’t restrict other’s liberty. we must eliminate from our thinking the idea that we are the center of the entire universe and put the others, and the nature with its animals at the forefront of our concerns. and that would place our children in a better world. (i declare that i’m not a politician or priest or pastor or militant in any organization and i’m not the pope to, but these are my ideas – and many others – about cohabitation on a planet as beautiful as the planet earth is…)

  • Tharindu Muthukumarana says:

    Each and every elephants that are trained to perform some thing are beaten for sevral hours to make the elephant train.I also should mention elephants are wild animals, they are not belong to human beigns.

  • PETA says:

    Hannibal, we encourage support for circuses that opt for willing human performers rather than tormented animals. For information on animal-free circuses, visit our page here:

  • PETA says:

    Shooter, as we encourage any concerned person to do, PETA intervenes and immediately contacts law enforcement authorities ( upon witnessing cruelty to animals—if there are relevant laws in place. While we agree that any deliberate cruelty to animals should be illegal, many abuses are simply not covered by laws at this time. Our best hope for the animals is to show government officials and caring people like you what terrible things happen and then work to try to stop such acts.

  • BethsBabies says:

    How DARE these greedy, money-hungry lowlifes capture and torment such beautiful creatures! This is an atrocity and is cruel and inhumane. These sweet-natured animals have done absolutely NOTHING to warrant such treatment except desire to be free to move and play and bond with other elephants. They were not created to freakin’ ENTERTAIN humans!! I hope Ringling gets their license revoked and that they are punished enormously for this cruelty. And, as for those watching, I hope you never DREAM of going to another Ringling Bros. circus for eternity! Shame on them!

  • jordan shoes says:

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  • ilis says:

    Vezměte s cirkusů všechna zvířata,toto je zrůdnost,která nemá slov,já bych ty lidi postřílela,hnus USA a její ekonomice trhu,hnus,hnus,hnus

  • ilis says:

    co to je za lidi,a ještě se tomu smějí,dřív než člověk vstoupil na tuto planetu,tak po mnoho let tu veškerá zvířata žili v simbioze,prosím zavřete všechny cirkusy viděla jsem tolik tyrání nevinných zvířat,copak to nechápete ty mají žít v přírodě já sem tak rozčílená,že tahle planeta si nezaslouží,aby na žil člověk,žádnej!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Squillions says:

    @Hannibal: No one is suggesting dismantling all circuses. We only suggest supporting circuses that do not use animals in their acts. Tortured, abused and neglected animals are not a necessary part of the fun of the circus. Acrobats, clowns, and fire eaters are. Period. Screw you for defending the abuse of sentient, compassionate animals who have no choice but to live their lives in misery. As for the animal trainers? Screw them too. Look what they do in the name of “training.” they are nothing but sick, sociopathic bullies who enjoy beating animals.

  • HalleBalleDog says:

    This is beyond words. What we humans do to animals is incomprehensible. The article left me speachless. This has to stop… horrific training of sorts is unfair to mother nature and a testament to a lack of human compassion.

  • tess eagles says:

    Makes me sick. I cant even look at the pictures of those precious elephants being forced to be trained.

  • Hannibal the cannibal says:

    Have you ever wondered how many people will become jobless if nobody goes to the circuses? Animal trainers,veterinarians,musicians,truck drivers etc etc….

  • Mich says:

    I had an argument with someone yesterday about justifying the use of an animal’s body parts to save a human life – they had no problem with it because they said that animals are a “lower” species than humans. After seeing this picture, I would say that it is in fact humans who are the “lower” species. Despicable. Sad. Atrocious.

  • Stina says:

    This makes me really upset! I hate seeing defenseless animals being harmed for stupid people’s enjoyment.

  • SHERYL LONG says:

    THIS MAKES ME OUT-OF-CONTROL FURIOUS!!! Do NOT ever go to a circus or ANY kind of animal shows!!! If you do NOT attend, then there will be NO demand!!!

  • windaay says:

    This is nearly the saddest thing I have ever seen. Makes my heart ache to see what happens to these poor animals, never will I again go to a circus, or anywhere animals are forced to take part in.

  • anon says:

    this just hurts me so bad, there aren’t even words to explain

  • Hayley says:

    That picture (seen when clicked on the link) is extremely disturbing. How a person can justify beating/injuring/inflicting any type of pain on any animal, much less a little baby, is beyond my realm of comprehension. I always hope we, as humans, would be above this and know the difference between right and wrong, but clearly ……… we have a long way to go.

  • mishagirl says:

    I can’t even bring myself to look. What are people thinking. I remember as a child going to the zoo’s and the circus, and the poor elephants just looked like zombies. Even as a child I sensed it. Their eyes told the story.

  • Shooter says:

    I’m amazed, why do these guys just take photographs and no action? One cannot be alone all the while, could have gone in later to rescue the poor chap. Mr Lewin, you’re in a position to help as well when you take such photos to solicite public reaction and express your views. I believe you’re a good person but you can be a great man. PETA Thailand.. any plans to rescue the kid?

  • KATHY RICKER says:


  • eddy loomans says:

    never ever, under any circumstance attend circusses, fairs or any appearances where animals are involved. Simply boycott them. These people only understand economics. Only money is important to them. That’ s were we can hurt these ba….ds the most.

  • Sharon F. says:

    I don’t know what to say. My heart and soul ache but it doesn’t do the animals any good. What kind of people are these who can torture the innocents? Not going to circuses, not wearing animals or using products tested on them or containing them and not eating them or their secretions are the least we can do.

  • charles smith says:


  • adrian says:

    how the hell can people keep on going to the circus or animal shows! all you out there in favour of this cruelty… get lost. shamful

  • Heather says:

    Absolutely heartbreaking-that isn’t training-that’s torture. Words escape me but my heart aches for this sweet animal! Please don’t go to circuses

  • Anna says:

    Voi siete le persone, come potete far soffrire cosi gli animali. Come fate dopo di questo sorridere e vivere tranquilamente.

  • Mary Ellen says:

    This makes me so mad! What is wrong with people?