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New Video of Ringling Trainer Hitting Elephant

Written by Michelle Kretzer | October 3, 2012

PETA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after someone in the audience sent us this video showing a handler with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ Red Unit hooking and striking an elephant named Luna—who has a history of leg problems—with a bullhook (a weapon used by the circus that resembles a fireplace poker):

Exotic-animal veterinarian Dr. Mel Richardson, observing that Luna was stiff in one of her legs—a sign of painful arthritis, one of the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized—determined that Luna was most likely not feeling well and didn’t want to perform the trick, which required her to rear up on her hind legs. But the callous trainer continued to hook her in order to force her to perform—actions that Dr. Richardson described as “abusive.”

[Luna] is already giving him the indication that she is not going to do this trick at the 10 [second] mark. She appears to pull toward her left for a second and [the trainer] goes to her. He keeps saying ‘Luna move up.’ He strikes her at 15 [seconds]. Watch her, she is lowering her body and right leg in avoidance and starting to back up. He hooks her in her right tush pocket at 19-20 [seconds]. (Female Asian elephants do not have true tusks but sometimes have shorter second incisors called “tushes.”)

Luna responds to this abuse by cowering.

And this is just what Ringling trainers do in front of the audience. Behind the scenes, they are fond of what they refer to as “tune-ups”: screaming at and beating elephants as soon as the show is over as punishment for the animals’ failure to do exactly what they were told to do.

We turned this new video evidence over to the USDA and filed a complaint, citing yet more violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by Ringling, which holds the record for the most complaints. We are urging the USDA to investigate all the Red Unit elephants for bullhook wounds and to examine Luna for signs of illness and injury that would preclude her, by law, from performing. How much longer will these vulnerable elephants be forced to endure this abuse?

This abuse is par for the course for Ringling, which has already paid the largest fine in circus history for dozens of violations of the AWA.

Please contact the USDA and ask the agency, on the heels of yet another video showing that Ringling trainers beat elephants, to revoke Ringling’s animal exhibitor license and pursue criminal charges against its trainers.

Commenting is closed.
  • Jamie says:

    The trainer and Luna are still performing regularly in the Red Tour, they were on stage last night, while the elephants “behaved” for the most part and weren’t hooked on stage they were obviously either in a state where they were afraid of the handler or had obviously resigned to just following orders. Now the tigers last night were being whipped on stage repeatedly it was awful and I wished they could have taken a bite out of that handler and given him a taste of his own medicine.

  • Carol Henderson says:

    Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey Circus needs to be shut down, NOW, forever. They have been proven to be cruel to all their animals. The trainers need to be thrown in jail for their abuses to the animals.

  • Merigold says:

    Ringling circus trainers are heartless, ruthless, evil inhumane barbarians. Who ever enjoys while performing and subjecting an majestic and intelligent animals such as these Elephants to suffer the excruciating pains, mental distress and utter sadness, are BLOOD THIRSTY BARBARIANS. I hope someday a Massive Horror befalls on these barbarians and will shower with misfortune throughout their lives.

  • Cat V says:

    Any person who uses any animal for entertainment of any kind should be prosecuted. Those who abuse those same animals should be incarcerated. For life. Period.

  • Valerie Marcelli says:

    Please stop the torture all in the name of Greed!!!!

  • Yogi says:

    Yah, we don’t need Circus, not even children remember it always.(only when it comes to their town).

  • Cassandra says:

    Yes, I know for a fact that they beat them right on stage. Don’t even try to hide it! As a child I saw a trainer beat an elephant with a bullhook several times in front of me for defecating. Anyone please let me know if there is any protest planned for the Bethlehem, PA, show. I am saddened to learn they are coming soon to my area.

  • Satorui, Friend of wolves says:

    the only reason Ringling gets away with this is because their overseas tours provide cover to CIA types, if you don’t believe me check this out: and this: I’m just saying there is a connection

  • Bojana Deisenroth says:

    It is unbelievable, that American society,always proclaming being most developed, progressive and sophisticated, tolerates such an inhumane and medieval treatment of innocent animals. Concerning animal welfare US seem to be the empire of evil 🙁

  • Saraaasal says:

    That is so sad!!!!! This makes me want to cry, has this dude seen the movie “Water For Elephants”?! He’s going to get crushed someday (hopefully) can’t wait.