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Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

Nah! Nah! The Circus Got a Smackdown!

Written by PETA | July 22, 2008

As I’m sure many of you are aware, circuses that use elephants and big cats in their acts are not on PETA’s approved list! Circuses—including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, for instance—use aggression, violence, and confinement to “train” elephants to perform asinine tricks. This often results in pain, suffering, and trauma. Some elephants go mad, while others become infected with deadly diseases, like a human strain of tuberculosis (TB). Quite a few suffer early deaths. (If this is the first time you’re hearing that all is not glitter and glamour for animals in circuses, I think I’ve got some sad news for you about Santa Claus as well.)

However, while we PETA activists have become well equipped for tackling Ringling’s lies to the public about their practices, up from the slimy depths slinks Carson & Barnes Circus.

Let me back up by telling you about Joy. She’s from a group of elephants that the Illinois-based Hawthorn Corporation was forced to relinquish because of chronic Animal Welfare Act violations. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the elephants at Hawthorn accounted for 21 percent of known cases of TB in elephants, and it’s likely that these elephants are infected with drug-resistant, latent TB. In fact, half of Hawthorn’s 22 animal handlers tested positive for TB exposure.



While most of the elephants at Hawthorn went to sanctuaries, we fought the USDA tooth and nail to prevent Joy from going to Carson & Barnes Circus. An overreaction on our part? Heck no! One of our incredible undercover investigators exposed cruelty so vicious that it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Elephants shocked with electric prods and repeatedly hit with bullhooks become so frightened that they trumpet and recoil from the trainer’s vicious attacks.

This is the routine nightmare of elephants in their “care.” They’re tortured. Yet somehow these depraved animal abusers are still in business and were allowed by the USDA to acquire Joy with the understanding that they’d never use her in their traveling show or for any sort of public contact because the USDA determined that the Hawthorn elephants posed a danger to the national elephant herd and public health.

Then! Less than a year after they got Joy, Carson & Barnes turned right around and submitted a request to the USDA to use her anyway for “educational demonstrations and possibly for elephant rides.” Here’s the USDA’s rather irritated response:

As you might recall, you had several conversations with Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, Eastern Region Director, Animal Care, in March and April 2005 regarding EAF’s [the circus's Endangered Ark Foundation, which is nothing more than a breeding facility to supply Carson & Barnes with more unwilling performers] willingness to be a donee for Joy. In each of those conversations, you, among other things, agreed on behalf of EAF not to allow Joy to travel or be in contact with the public. Therefore, EAF’s plan to use Joy for “elephant rides” or any other exhibition that involves public contact or travel would not be acceptable to [the USDA].

Yeah, these carnies really care about the animals, eh? They will stoop so low as to risk the health of Joy, other elephants, and little kids just to make a buck off elephant rides.

Boo-yah! Little C&B thought they run with the big dogs in janky dirty dealings? But remember what we told you the five fingers said to the face? SMACK!

Posted by Missy Lane

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  • Melissa says:

    Seriously!!!! I think I could just throw up!!! These magnificant animals are a gift not trash!! I have 2 kids and I will never bring them to the circus because of the way the animals are treated! Elephants are supposed to be in the wild not in trucks beaten until they bleed…Ringling Bros YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!!! And people wonder why our WILD animals go WILD on humans??? Geeeee you think its because the stupid PIGS that treat our animals like dirt! If it were me id flip on the ers too!

  • georgia says:

    this is disgusting and makes me sick. i cant beleive those sick people think their tougher than a huge whopping elephant. their so dumb that they dont have anything consructive to do they have go around training…errrmm ABUSING these innocent creatures. And i dont blame the elephants for getting so violent they’re probably trying to tell the people that these people are hurting them badly but they probly think that the elephant is the bad one. it digusts me what kind of sick world me live in.

  • ania says:

    i didn’t watch any of the videos because they make me want to throw up. i cried when i found out how many chinchillas it takes to make afur coat yeah i know this has nothing to do with this well i’ve been to circuses although there is a lot of noise so i never really liked it but i never imagined how badly these animals were treated!i saw pictures that a couple my family knew took pictures of wild animals on a safari and seeing the animals in the wild made me realize just how beautiful they are. elephants are quite graceful for an animal of there size and i dont see why people could possibly even THINK to abuse them.

  • Antigone1000 says:

    Deena Why do you feel that live animals need to be displayed to children in order for them to deserve protection??? Rememberthese days we have videos. Most children can understand enough about all animals from videos of those animals in their natural environments and what they know about their own pets. Only adults lack this ability and determine to love some animals and abuse others for no logical reason. Most children love all animals and “get it” until corrupted by adults with no compassion. Think about itdo I have to meet you personally in order to understand that I should not murder you or can I figure out that since you are like the humans I know I probably should let you live your life…..

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Deena that’s a great point!!! There are so many ways to educate children without zoos. I am a wildlife rehabilitator and several of us have education licenses we have workshops with wild animals who can’t be released like crows with permanently broken wings. Tufts University in North Grafton Mass has workshops where rehabbers bring in birds of prey for the public to see these birds are usually right from the wildlife hospital on campus and don’t have to be transported by car. The educator just walks them in a carrier to the stage and then brings them right back to the hospital when they’re done. Some zoos only use non releaseable animals such as one zoo that had a circus bear. The circus bear’s trainer was going to have him destroyed because the bear was aggressive. The zoo stepped in and gave the bear a gorgeous place to live at the zoo with waterfalls boulders and trees to climb. The bear is completely used to people and the bear also has several hiding places in case he wants some peace and quiet. There are zoos like that always research which zoos are good and never go to a zoo that breeds in captivity or has nasty small enclosures. Also I highly recommend The Life of Mammals and The Life of Birds by David Attenboro. Finally go to the beach an urban park a hiking trip and see your local wildlife!! Kids can learn loads about wild animals all over the world just by deducing certain aspects of local wildlife. Education nature hikes bay tours and workshops are especially useful for children!

  • deena says:

    well what i see here is a catch22. what brought about my love for animals at such an early age like 2 or 3? it was the “close” encounters i had with them especially marine mammals that made me want to protect them. it wasn’t until i was older 9 or 10 when i thougt “hmm… something isn’t right here…” meaning ripping these animals from their natural habitats for us to see up close. some of you may say “well go on a safari go whale watching etc…” umm hello i like many of you didn’t grow up with an extra $5000 to blow on a trip to africa.. see what i’m saying? so my question is how can we educate children today about animals without exploiting these creatrues and causing undue stress to them?

  • Kelley says:

    Dr. Breen I bet your not a veterinarian. I can understand the childish language Dr. Breen PETA and all animal lovers and activists are SO DISGUSTED that we cannot contain our feelings. There are millions of animals that are mistreated tourtured confined is inhumane sickening and just plain wrong! They are here on this earth so that we can look after them. Think about it would you mistreat a severely retarded person or your favorite family pet? I dont know if anybody saw a show called “30 Days” when PETA tried to turn an avid hunter. The clips I saw on that show were horrific and that wasnt even the worst of it. The hunter did eventually end up convicted that mistreatment was wrong when he was forced to watch how calves were treated on a factory farm. I also always wondered how investigators not vomit when they’re videotaping torture. Also I hope that PETA and other animal activists do not stop working towards stopping these worldwide nightmares! I COMMEND YOU KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!! Kelly I agree and I must say that the USDA is not the only problem. The government views animals as a commodity and thats all. I wouldnt even have a problem with animals being killed for food but the way they do it is UNFATHOMABLE. They NEED to be treated well fed well and allowed to roam. They need to be HUMANLY TREATED AND KILLED. AT THE LEAST they’ll be happy therefore the meat will be of better quality. WHY CANT THEY PUT THEM TO SLEEP INSTEAD? WHY CANT THEY JUST GIVE THEM 1 BULLET IN THE HEAD TO REASSURE A FAST AND PAINLESS DEATH? I used to work in a pet store only for 3 days. There was a room where they kept the animals that were sick or had some minor birth deformity. The sick ones they do treat but the others I was curious about I asked my boss at the time what happens to them? He said they’re usually sent back to the breeder. I was literally like O because God knows what they do with them when they get back who knows really…

  • Judith says:

    Be sure to watch 2020 tonight Friday on ABC. The program will be called “Just Like Us” I believe. They show how these beautiful animals suffer from Post Dramatic Stress Disorder from watching their families be murdered. And the horrific misery they go through in the Zoos.

  • Wendy says:

    Why cant someone forward that on to Oprah or one of the big Talk Shows.. or World News or… even local news.. Extra… Any Evening Talk Show that gets it into the home and in front of people that think circuses are fine. That needs to be shown to every news caster everywhere. That’s the most devistating video I’ve seen in regards to elephants. Please tell me that guy in the beginning “rip it’s foot off” was fired…. it’s the least that should happen to such a cruel human being. That was horrible. and to the poster above me… give us a break… These are great informative Blogs that definately get the point across. Keep up the great work PETA.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Amen kelly. I’m not sure why we tolerated it for this long! ps The NRDC got Bush and cronies to cower in fear using lawyers. Why can’t we do the same to the USDA?

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Amen kelly. I’m not sure why we tolerated it for this long!

  • rob says:

    is there a protest planed for the circus in Anaheim?

  • kelly says:

    The USDA is in the private industry animal abuse business. They believe that they don’t work for the American taxpayer. They believe they work to collude with private industry and HELP businesses abuse torture and kill animals. And BREAK LAWS. For years the USDA has been colluding with the puppy mill industry helping criminals not only abuse dogs but spread disease and cheat consumers with sick defective puppies. The USDA has colluded with the meat industry to let tainted downer cow meat into the food supply even the school lunch program. The USDA worked for brutal FOREIGN horse slaughterhouses to keep torturing horses and maintain horse theft to supply the slaughterhouses. WE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE need to take back the USDA. It is run by organized criminals that break laws and steal our tax dollars to help criminals. And the state departments of agriculture have similar problems. Your state dept of Ag people are colluding with lobbyists for private animal abuse industries.

  • Carla says:

    All I say is Peta you should try to get that elephant out of there as quick as possible. Those “low mentality” humans will stop at nothing and I believe her life is in danger! Do you really believe they’ll waste their time for her care feeding bathing ect now that they know they can’t make money from her!?? Please and Peace! And to the USDA you guys have hidden agendas.

  • brandie r says:

    You said If this is the first time you’re hearing that all is not glitter and glamour for animals in circuses I think I’ve got some sad news for you about Santa Claus as well.” There’s really no reason to talk like people are idiots. I didn’t know that PETA disapproived of circuses because I started looking at the website like a month ago and that they treat the animals badly. I have been to several circuses in my life time and never imgained the animals being treated in harsh ways. Just an FYI for you don’t assume people know these things. You know what they say aboout the word “assume” it makes an ASS out of U and ME. Although I prefer to tell people that it makes an ass out of u and u sine they are the ones assuming. It’s better to educate people than to dumb it down and talk to people as if they know these things and do them anyway. Don’t assume everyone already knows what you know. I wasn’t into PETA until I stopped eating meat which was about a month ago. So with that said just state the facts and don’t treat us like we’re idiots. Give people credit for even readinglistening to what you have to say.

  • Judith says:

    I only wish that a few people I know could have a few minutes alone with these bastards! Are these people just born with dead souls? I could go on forever about this. I watched part of a tape put together by Ms. Derby of PAWS. What I saw will never leave my mind. Most of my heroes wear masks! Peace for all animals!

  • Lesley says:

    there is a circus that is coming to my hometown of romeomi and i would really like to start a protest rally. do you have any free literature or moderately priced even? we plan to make signs as well as set up a booth with brochures for those passing by. appreciate any help lesley pawlaczyk

  • nicole says:

    well i watched that video and it is horrible. i wish those elephants would just step on that first fuckwits head… he deserves it. how can people terrify and attack these precious creatures in the name of entertainment!!!! children shouldn’t see elephants in these conditions!!! how can this be leagal? if you were to treat your dog like this you would be charged with cruely!!! this has to stop…

  • Marilyn Maness says:

    I have been a past supporter of PETA and agree with many of the things they do to protect innocent animals Lately and unfortunately they are turning into fanatics. I can not support people who lose all logic and touch with reality. The ad with parents and child finished it for me.

  • Maya, C.V.T. says:

    I strongly disagree with this PETA. Santa Clause is real!! LOL Just kidding. You guys kicked ass on this one. I just can’t beleive we’re using elephants one of the most magnificant animals on Earth for joyrides. It defies belief. It’s disgusting. Wild animals are not here for our entertainment. Of all living things on Earth they serve a function that is far too important for humans to even comprehend. And yet we treat them like barbie dolls. That’s not what they’re here for. Show them respect and let them do their job on our planet. I have mixed feelings about the USDA. I reported a neglectful zoo to them. They were polite and they took my information seriously and were prompt in their investigation. But I certainly didn’t think they could make the situation any worse yet they did. I think leaving any elephant with any circus or entertainment facility is unacceptable. We need big changes in the USDA and the only way to accomplish that is to bombard them like we bombard KFC. The USDA should be approached diplomatically but we need to gather thousands of people to write and protest.