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Ringling Case: Elephants Await Verdict

Written by PETA | March 18, 2009
livinggallery / CC

Today, lawyers gave their closing arguments in the court case involving Ringling’s use of steel-barbed bullhooks and shackles on the elephants it forces to perform. Over the course of the six-week trial, the following evidence was presented:



  • Elephants are chained for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, sometimes for as many as 60–100 hours straight on extended trips. Chained and barely able to take a step, the elephants sway neurotically.
  • Kenneth Feld—CEO of Feld Entertainment, the company that owns Ringling—had to admit that he’s seen handlers use bullhooks to hit elephants in the secret places where the wounds don’t show up as much (i.e., under the chin, behind the ear, and on the back of the leg).
  • Ringling’s animal behaviorist testified that an elephant who had been struck with a bullhook was seen dripping blood on the arena floor during a show.
  • In internal e-mails that came to light, a Ringling veterinary assistant reported, “After this morning’s baths, at least 4 of the elephants came in with multiple abrasions and lacerations from the [bull]hooks. … The [lacerations] were very visible …. [A handler] applied … wonder dust just before the show.” (Wonder Dust is a gray dressing powder that circus workers can use to conceal bloody bullhook wounds.)
  • Another internal report documented that Troy Metzler, a longtime Ringling elephant trainer, struck Angelica, a female Asian elephant, three to five times while she was held in stocks before unloading her and then shocking her with an electric prod.
  • Two former Ringling employees, who had previously blown the whistle to PETA, described the abuse that they witnessed while working for the circus, including a violent beating of an elephant that lasted at least 30 minutes.

Check back with the PETA Files in the coming months for an update on the verdict. We hope that the elephants win, but regardless of the outcome, the trial has already generated lots of deservedly negative publicity for this miserable circus. And that’s a good thing considering how hard Ringling works to put a misleading, positive spin on clamping elephants in irons, dominating and intimidating them with bullhooks, and confining them to boxcars and arena basements for much of their lives.

Written by Alisa Mullins

Commenting is closed.
  • orjin krem says:

    when will we know what the verdict is?

  • Mike Mike says:

    I am just heartbroken over this. I had no idea that this stuff was still going on. I ASSumed that these shows would surely have cleaned up their acts. We attended the “Illucination” show last night in our town. The show was great, but my daughter and I both said we felt a little uncomfortable with the animal acts. They had three elephants performing in this smaller show. We had no idea that this mistreatment/abuse was still going on! A friend sent us this website and I’ve been reading it all morning. I’m so sorry we went and will never go again!! Thank you, Peta. A donation will be coming your way!

  • Sharon McCarson says:

    Blow the whistle whistle blower GOD will soon blow the first trumpet. sick

  • Maxene says:

    GET THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Teresa Fanning says:

    We MUST get a law passed to shut down this circus as wel as all othere!!! These beautiful tigerselephants are beaten and abused!!! I used to take my kids..but NO MORE!!! I spoke up at the last circul I went to because the big beautiful elephant that was giving backrides was crying!!! Tears was just streaming down his lil facewhich made me mad as hell!! I sat there and cried my eyes out til I could not tak anymore and went to an employee and said somethingand the jerk said I as crazy…taht elephants do not cry!! I know what I sawand it WAS BIG TEARS!!!These animals should be released back into their natural habitatwhere GOD put themnot man!!! Help me fight this! They are performing in my town this weekend!!!

  • Givanildo says:

    All the people who see presentation of animals are guilty too. No public no animals.

  • Lea says:

    It’s still happening because people still pay to see this s. It’s still happening because even when they’re fined it’s not financially crippling hell they probably just take the money from the animals’ feed budget. I remember when I was a kid my mom wanted to take to the circus I didn’t want to go she took me anyway. I cried the whole time. I know why now. Sick greedy bastards just looking to make a buck anyway they can.

  • reyna says:

    i dont understand why this is still happening? it makes me so sad and sick that people can treat these beautiful animals like this. DONT GO TO CIRCUSES!!

  • c [email protected]! says:

    this wrong what they do to these poor inocent animals they should feel loved and cared for and not feel like hiding from the rest of the world because they fear people that kill inocent animals. they should be able feel loved.

  • Barbara says:

    What a crime. Karma will get you. Animals are put here for us to protect. These creeps should be labeled for the world to see. They are no differnt than Child abusers.

  • Karen Adams says:

    I don’t know who bribed the judge to side with these animal abusers. Hope the Judge can sleep at night knowing he has sided with abusers instead of the poor animals. Maybe the judge should be chained hooked and starved and see if he has a change of heart. I will know that you let down our animal friends.

  • cleve says:

    animls have fellings and they should not be treated that way

  • Dre says:

    I’m proud to say that since I’ve been old enough to vote I’ve stood in all sorts of weather to protest circuses that use animals as ‘performers’ including Ringling Bros. This abuse is why these majestic animals eventually run amok and kill their trainers and anyone else that happens to be around when they snap. Bringing your kids to a show like this is a dangerously bad idea. You wouldn’t let your kid go sit near coyotes would you? Why sit them in an arena where tigers and elephants are potential land mines waiting to go off?

  • jessicadrivesbuses says:

    I can not believe the torture they put there animals through. I hope all the people who are beating them go straight to prison. And to think I used to love the circus. I hope the circus gets shuts down or at least they take out the animals. It’s like just because you don’t have enough talent doesn’t mean you have to beat the poor animals. This makes me completely sick to my stomach.

  • catalina McLoughlin says:

    I hope all the animals be removed from the circus those elephants have no business there living miserable lives.

  • Angela Wilkinson says:

    Some of you wrote you hope the animal would strike back. That would be nice but guess what would happen to the animal it would be killed. I doubt this is what we all want I wish EVERY circus who has animals MUST be closed. I’d rather see animals in the wild where they belong. I hope with the evidence in court we come a step closer to shot all circus’ wanimals down for good. I never understood how one sits enjoys i.e. an elephant do tricks a tiger jumping through a ring of fire. That is ridiculous so against nature. I would be very happy to see in my day all circus wanimals CLOSED.

  • Melinda says:

    Tomorrow night is the first night for the Ringling Bros. circus in our area. We have a very large group of animal advocates picketing these abusers. So many attendees don’t realize the abuse they are supporting. When they stop their cars at the stop light and take the time to read our signs some turn away in guilt but the children read the signs and look so surprised. Shame on Ringling Bros. Last night a group of the elephants got loose and walked almost a mile from the location. I can only imagine the beating they received when captured and returned to The Palace of Auburn Hills. Come on Mr. Tom Wilson President don’t continue to give these people a place to raise their money. Turn them away. Please watch the video I left at your office. I know you don’t condone this abuse.

  • Lori says:

    I think that the people who do this are sorry. I wish the elephants and tigers would just turn around and hurt them back. I have a nephew who wanted to go to this show this year but due to money we werent able to make it and now for sure i wont be promoting this circus at all. if thats what it takes to get these poor animals out of this hell place.. sincerly dissapointed Lori

  • melissa says:

    you would think these people would show respect to the animals. They are the reason these dumb aes get a paycheck. People who beat animals should not be allowed to have kids! come on you guys know that anyone who beats an animal will go home and beat their kids and wife.

  • juana says:

    They are psychopaths.

  • Duyen Nguyen says:

    I Really hope the elephants win and they get to start a new better and happier life!D I dont understand how you can just hit a defensless animal without feeling guilt! Imagine if you were in the POSITION! by the way! it is not defensless because if they keep beating them then it will cause them to get mad and so someone may get hit. Hopefully the employees that hit them gets hurt! I hope the verdict comes soon! as long as i know they are out of the hands of evil people then i will get a good bight sleep! ELEPHANTSTIGERsect..PLEASE WIN!3

  • Mo says:

    I wrote an eight page long persuasive essay on all this. Here is my conclusion. You can probably guess which side I am on from this easily. Although I tried to see both sides of this very complicated and opinionated story I am still against animal circuses and hope that we will someday ban them. I think that forcing animals to be entertainment is cruel and disgusting. Every single animals biggest threat is humans. We hunt sharks for their fins elephants for their tusks and tigers for their skin. We bulldoze their habitats take away their food sources and much much more. All that is done when the animals are still wild and now we come along and bring them into captivity just so that we can abuse them some more! Our society has no respect for other animals and that has got to change!

  • Lisa Dennis says:

    What is taking so long for a verdict that should be obvious? Ringling Bros. is shameful and needs to be shut down effective immediately punished and fined to the fullest extent of the law. This has gone on far too long and all of the animals should be sent to a loving sanctuary ASAP!! They are in my home town this next couple of weeks and I want to protest. PLEASE PRAY FOR THE ELEPHANTS AND ALL OF THE ANIMALS THEY DESERVE SOOOOO MUCH BETTER!!! Thank you and God Bless!!!