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Ringling Slapped With Largest Penalty in Circus History

Written by PETA | November 28, 2011

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, must now pay the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history―$270,000―for violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dating back to 2007.

PETA has been after the USDA all this time to take action against Ringling for abusing the animals in its care. In recent meetings, we presented unequivocal evidence of animal abuse, including beatings, the death of a lion, lame elephants forced to perform despite chronic pain, and a baby elephant who died during a training routine. We had recently filed a new formal request for action against Ringling, and our attorneys had met with the USDA’s general counsel and urged her to begin enforcement proceedings.

PETA presented testimonial and photographic evidence that baby elephants at Ringling’s training compound are torn away from their mothers and subjected to violent training sessions so that they will learn how to perform tricks, as well as video footage from a PETA investigation showing how elephants used by Ringling are whipped, beaten, and yanked by heavy, sharp steel-tipped bullhooks behind the scenes, prior to performing.

In addition to receiving the largest civil penalty ever assessed against an exhibitor under the AWA, Ringling must now provide all employees who handle animals with training and hire a staff member dedicated to AWA compliance. We will see how that goes.

This is a great start, but no one should forget that elephants and other animals pay the price every time anyone buys a ticket to the circus. Ask all the parents you know not to take their children to this cruel show, and explain why or show them this blog.

Please click here to thank the USDA for taking action against Ringling for its abuse of animals, and urge officials to go a step further and confiscate the circus’ sick and ailing elephants.

Written by Jennifer O’Connor

Commenting is closed.
  • Shelley Burkhardt says:

    I have not even been tempted for years now to attend or support a circus. A lot of people do not believe that this cruelty really occurs. I totally believe it does. Wouldn’t it be heaven for those of us who truly love animals so much, to get to go in and free them all. Don’t support the bad guys any longer!!!


    les not forget the Big Apple Circus, though they dont have elephants anymore (he died years ago mysteriously) abuses and confinement are legendary.

  • Liana says:

    Elephants are very intelligent empathic creatures. If the public was only knew how much so, perhaps they would understand how unbearably cruel this life is for them and how much they suffer. Stay away from the circus!

  • Maddie says:

    There is no such thing as a humane circus. As long as there are animals in the circus there is abuse! It needs to end now! Being forced to do things that aren’t healthy or normal for such large, beautiful creatures isn’t morally right by any means. We have voices to say no to things we don’t want-they don’t. All they have is us! It’s our job to try our hardest to protect them and speak out for them!

  • Maddie says:

    There is no such thing as a humane circus. As long as there are animals in the circus there is abuse! It needs to end now! Being forced to do things that aren’t healthy or normal for such large, beautiful creatures isn’t morally right by any means. We have voices to say no to things we don’t want-they don’t. All they have is us! It’s our job to try our hardest to protect them and speak out for them!

  • Vegan says:

    It is unethical to use animals for entertainment. Give animals the dignity that they deserve. There are wonderful, successful human circuses such as Cirque du Soleil, which is very entertaining without ever facing one animal rights protest.

  • j says:

    There is nothing wrong with a circus as long as the animals are not abused. The goal shouldn’t be to “ban” the circus forever, but to get to a point where the animals are not abused. The circus is fun for all people of all ages, taking it away is a bit extreme. Focus on fixing the problem of abuse and then enjoy the show

  • Claudia says:

    This is amazing news!!! I am so happy….now we need to still be on top of them so they comply to all the things that were agreed…they need to learn this lesson once and for UNTILL ALL ANIMAL CIRCUSES ARE COMPLETELY BANNED..

  • dawn wildhirt says:


  • priscycute says:

    FINALLY THE MESSAGE GOT TROUGH!!!!!!! I was having dinner with friend and i got an email on my phone and as i read it my jaw dropped and it was the best news i have ever received. Thank you PETA for your hard work and we will continue protesting till its shut down for ever!!!!

  • Tara Strawbridge says:

    I hope that the Ringling College of Art and Design treat their students better than their “so called” beloved animals. This is disgusting display of abuse!!!

  • marsha says:

    It is a shame that Feld Entertainment has to be forced not to abuse their animals. It is the people at the head of this company that should be imprisoned along with the employees who performed the abuse. Using live animals for entertainment, exploited for profit, and used for lab experiements should be outlawed in this country and heavy penalties applied and enforced if caught doing it.

  • Grady says:

    BOYCOTT CIRCUSES AND OTHER FORMS OF ANIMAL SPORTS.Make your voice heard by contacting your representatives and senators. This is not NATURAL to have animals perform all for the pleasures of MAN. We must teach and train our children that this is not acceptable behavior that animals need their freedom, rights and liberties as we humans do. This is no different than the whites using blacks as slavery. It is wrong and it needs to be changed.

  • Marta says:

    Even if it’s a little money penalty it’s something to start with. Hope it will be cumulative in case they recidive in this abominal misconduct.

  • Terri-Mae Fitzgerald says:

    Justice needs to be served for these defenseless Animals

  • Tim says:

    Its a start, but I will not be happy unitl the use of animals is completely banned in circuses.

  • Susana says:

    If you people wanna MASSACRE Ringling Bross on Intenet,

    Do it through leaving LOTS of BAD Comments on:

    – Facebook,

    – YouTube,

    – Twitter,

    – Blogger,

    And HERE is their FACEBOOK’s Profile:

  • Heidi says:

    Great achievement! But who gets the money? Does even a single penny go towards animal protection or PETA to help them finance their good work?? I’m sure PETA has tremendous expenses to pay their staff, attorneys, their PR measures etc. etc. and they will need that kind of money to uncover and fight even more animal abuses. I’m worried the penalty money will be go to the US government which is financially like a humongous black whole where money like this disappears without a trace, besides financing environmental disasters by e.g. subsidizing large scale industrial farming etc. which contributes to even more animals suffering.

  • Alejandra Miper says:

    Por favor no mas circos con animales

  • AmandaM says:

    I just pray that 270K is only the beginning of more and bigger fines, until they are forced out of business. They should be in jail. Thank you PETA and all who work on behalf of the animals.

  • c berg says:

    Way to go PETA.

  • Janice Robertson says:

    You ask us to thank the USDA for fining Ringling, but there are many regional offices. Which one should we write to?

  • Jw says:

    I’m not trying to sound ignorant or sarcastic, but I’m just wondering… If the whips hurt the elephants so bad how come they don’t fight back? Surely they know they are stronger, and do attack when angry or feeling threatened. I’m not a big fan of the circus but I didn’t find this video too bad.

  • barbara says:

    How do these people sleep at night and live with themselves knowing what they are doing to these poor creatures!As an early childhood teacher I educate my students about animal kindness and respect, and hopefully I will enforce in them love and compassion, something I am seeing less and less in people who use animals for profit and monetary gain. How sad that the human race is what it is

  • jjonser says:

    This is sick! $270,000.00??? What’s that? Peanuts!!! The trainers should be charged! This is an absolute discrase… animal circus’ should be shut down and ban! I really have no words for this….I would not consider $270,000.00 as a success. Criminal charges should be laid.

  • Jenn says:

    I’m so glad that all the hard work and non stop action has gotten us a step closer to protecting the animals at Ringlings. I truely believe that the day will come soon for them to be forced to hand over all of there animals and have them be free of this miserable life they’ve been forced to live.

  • carol says:

    It is about time!

  • mitch52dannig says:

    Its about time for this. A big step forward !!

  • gaile vincent says:

    Please continue the good work , no one should be able to keep animals like this at all ………. these poor animals should be out free to roam in sanctuaries ! not be in a Circus 🙁 it`s so sad .

  • Carolinec says:

    Thank GOD! It is a step in the right direction.. I wish the circus was banned completely! Hopefully, it will be the next step!

  • AgelessAnnie says:

    This is, absolutely, the best news in a long while when it comes as one small benefit for the magnificent creature we love and respect….the elephant. Who actually attends circuses in this day and age, anyway? I don’t understand the interest anyone has in attending a circus (using live, wild animals). Even as a child I felt nothing but pity and sadness for the big cats being forced to look so foolish when “obeying” their trainer in doing silly tricks — then there is one of the most magnificent wild creatures on the planet, the tiger, being forced to perform stupid “tricks”, my heart breaks for them. Considering the tiger’s frightening path to extinction today, why are these animals allowed to be purchased by *anyone* as though it was going to live like a pampered hamster, puppy or kitten?? Ditto for elephants, their loving family relationships should be emulated by humans beings, as these wonderful giant creatures seem to be programmed to care and watch out for their own kind and tolerant of other wild animals in the elephants’ territory and “home”.

  • Ronald Brabbin says:


  • Marcela Rivera says:

    Thank for you taking conscience it brings over of the mistreatment and suffering of the animals. The circus is cruel, they should prohibit them

  • Sue Griffiths says:

    We should be urging USDA and the government to ban all animals in circus’. There is no need for these animals to have a life, not worth living in this day and age. UK circus’ don’t have animals, and the circus hasn’t suffered as a result. So come on USA, demand an end to all animals in circus’. Nothing less will do.

  • Alison says:

    Circus’ must get the with times and quite using animals to do grotesque tricks that are totally unnatural and extremely cruel. No one enjoys watching animals suffer and in pain. It’s about time all circus’ exist without the use of all animals!

  • derya says:

    Thank you USDA for taking action animals need their freedom please stop them never give up

  • tranquilamongschaos says:

    ): An elephant never forgets…

  • flowerchild28 says:

    what gives anyone the right to treat any creature of this earth that badly??!! I really don’t understand, there is absolutely no need for this cruelty, it’s truly disgusting and my heart aches for those beautiful animals.

  • francisco gimenez says:

    pobres elefantes que tienen que soportar a estos intentos de hombres que por falta de capacidad se las agarran con los animales…

  • Patti says:

    It’s really cruel and disgusting the cruel methods used to “train” elephants to perform in circuses. They should be ashamed… I will NEVER go to the circus!

  • Sue B says:

    I am happy that justice has prevailed and that these cruel people will pay a fine for the abuse of several elephants over a span of five years. However, the fine of $250,000.00 is not nearly enough to compensate for the physical, spiritual, and emotional lives lost due to abuse. Please, keep up the good work and I hope to see these backwards circuses put to shame and to an end. Thank you PETA and all who helped make this historic situation possible. We are moving forward when people are held accountable for their abusive and negligent behaviors towards any sentient beings.

  • Paola Pecora says:

    Thank you USDA for taking action against Ringling for its abuse of animals, and please go a step further and confiscate the circus’ sick and ailing elephants. Thank you! Paola

  • Pattiep7 says:


  • FAYE COSMA says:

    Thank you USDA and bless you for standing up for these animals. Please don’t stop here. It is in your power to do so much more. We are counting on you and so are the innocent animals.

  • Marley says:

    This is disgusting. Those “trainers” derserve more than a fine.

  • Carolyn Monachelli says:

    Congratulations and thank you to the USDA for achieving this justice for the animals.

  • Emily Kil says:


  • Kristin Roach says:

    Thank you for taking action against such cruelty!

  • aj says:

    PETA thank you for fighting for the elephants and all of the animals enslaved by Ringling. It is nice to see the USDA finally doing their job.

  • lindseyKwaters says:

    I’m thrilled to hear Ringling has to be responsible for thier actions in such a large way. It just proves its possible to make a difference. We have to be a voice for animals. They didn’t choose a life of abuse and captivity. Maybe they will think twice before electro-shock training these beautiful, highly intelligent animals. Thank u for your fight peta!!!!!!