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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.
  • Jeanette Estabrooks says:

    I hate the circus, in fact the only good circus is one without beatened and abused animals forced to perform for a crowd of people who have no idea of the amount of suffering that they go through all for nothing more than having to put on a show.

  • Robin says:

    Stop this sick threatment, i hate circus with animals performing!!!

  • Debbie Coles says:

    When I was a child I loved the circus but now that I’m grown and have witnessed the cruelty that these animals suffer, I vowed to never, ever, attend a circus performance again. This needs to be stopped now! This cruelty breaks my heart and I will be a voice for these animals and the termination of this violent cruelty!

  • Rudy Dankwort says:

    Outrageous. I will be protesting at the upcoming performance in my home town this summer.

  • steven janssen says:

    they whip them and yell at them then all of a sudden one of them says luna move up! so if the elephant can understand this why all the cruel things they do to them! i dont get it,, i,ll bet if you showed some compassion and love the elephants would do almost anything you wanted them to do!!

  • Trisha says:

    I am broken hearted to see the treatment of these animals and I feel worse because I’ve contributed to this circus many times in the past. I love going to see these beautiful animals but it brings me to tears to see them abused and mistreated.. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to go back. I believe that that fine was not nearly enough. The animals should be removed and the workers should be put in jail for assault.

  • marcelo says:

    omg I can’t believe it… I’ve been to the circus a couple of times, never thought thats what was happening backstage… That’s no way to treat animals, I hope they get fined again and shut down!

  • Alla912 says:

    First I wanted to say I LOVE THE WAY U THINK JULIE!! I Liked the page and put ” U mean the cruelest show on Earth!!” People are uneducated and they need to learnthe truth! LONG LIVE VEGETARIANS & VEGANS!! I would never go to a circus, and never have. Screw that

  • Linda says:

    Actually was considering a visit to the Ringling Bros. circus this summer but not after seeing the video, it’s sad the way these beautiful innocent animals are abused for the sake of entertainment and money. So very many people need to be informed of these conditions and those that pay to see this without regard to the cruel treatment are just as guilty.

  • kath says:

    i can’t even stand to watch the video, i’ve seen them too many times before.

  • Jose says:

    Why is the circus still allowed to use animals if they do this horrible things to them? A fine is not enough, they should be banned from performing and those trainers put in jail or banned from working with animals. I just don’t understand why the circus is allowed to continue with their business.

  • Shirley says:

    For an outing for my friend, her two girls, my niece and myself, we decided to go to the Ringling Brother’s Circus in Columbus, Ohio. I purchased tickets yesterday for today’s show. Late last night before going to bed, I was on the internet and decided to see what the show would be like so I knew what to expect. I happened upon the video and info re: bad treatment of elephants and other animals. I was quite troubled by the news. So, we did go to the circus…the show was beautiful! That was until there was a problem with one of the tigers not wanting to participate. There was a circus worker on the outside of the cage trying to push the tiger forward while the trainer in the cage seemed to get rough with the tiger while trying to make him do what they wanted. My friend looked at me, wondering about this as she has two young daughters that were watching. I, at the time was the only one in our group that knew of Ringling’s issues. I am so upset about this. My parents took me to the circus when I was growing up and I loved it. I’ve taken my niece multiple times. Sad to say…Circus days are over for me.

  • palomadove says:

    why is this still happening?

  • Jamielyn says:

    I am so glad I checked your site before I went to the Circus today with 2 of my nieces. While the Circus I was taking them to was Circus Pages, I have read online that they have also been cited for abusing animals. Thank you PETA for help keeping everyone informed!!

  • Sharon says:

    Who the hell do they think they are, and what gives them the right to do that to those animals ? After seeing this video, why is this still happening ? They all need to be arrested for cruelty to animals. SOB’S…. every one of them. They should have the same thing done to them… see how they like it. I am so mad right now. Someone has to step in and STOP this treatment of those poor animaals.

  • Sharon says:

    I have not been to a circus since I was 5 and didn’t know any better. Nor have I taken my childen or grandchildren. To think of these poor animals being treated this way makes me sick and I will never support that.

  • val davidson says:

    This is absolutely disgusting!! Would love to get my hands on those handlers with a bullhook and do the same to them not that it would help, they dont have any feelings. Will never go to a circus again!!!! Those ellies are so sad and pathetic!

  • Lorijane says:

    I took my daughter and grandchildren to the Circus this weekend. We were greeted by PETA as we arrived with the pictures of a baby elephant tied up. At first I was angry thinking you were protesting with fake or altered pictures. My conscience got the best of me and I ended up here at this site. I am sick and disgusted. I can’t believe I paid $170 to support cruelty! Never again will I or any member of my family go to Ringling or any other Circus. I agree with the other comment that the fine isn’t enough. The trainers need to be forced to the same thing they are doing to these helpless animals. I love all animals big and small. I had no idea what cost it was to the helpless animals for me to see them perform. So very sad.

  • rhonda ross says:

    Appalling…sickened by such animal cruelty displayed in our society !

  • Yannick says:

    im kind of mad at my mother for taking me to this place when i was a kid. But now i know better, & peta don’t stop there. These people need to be SHUT DOWN , & they need to let all of these animals go.

  • Bella says:

    Go to Cirque Du Soleil instead! Fabulous show and no animals being forced into doing anything against their will.

  • jenni says:

    This is exactly why my children have NEVER been to any type of animal circus.

  • ashley says:

    they deffinetly have no hearts! those are the true murders, they have no respect towards life.

  • Laura says:

    This is such a horrible act of human behavior to see. We should honestly take these men and trainers and preform the same acts they are putting towards these poor animals that have no choice at all in the lives they are currently living. The fine is definitely not high enough and these circuses with animals should be ended. Everyone planning on attending a circus should go see Cirque du Soliel instead, as there are no animals involved.


    $270,000 os TINY. I am pleased with the decision but what would be better is No animals! These “Men” dress up for the “show” it makes them feel BIG. I am sick about the continued abuse. I will NEVER GO TO A TRADITIONAL CITCUS AGAIN.

  • Jenn says:

    So sad and also sick and disgusting! Anyone that can harm an innocent animal is a piece of crap! I hope they rot for what they put these animals through.

  • Jay says:

    This has gone on since the beginning of the circus itself. ALL of them! Fortunately, it’s come to light in the last decade or so. The movie Water For Elephants also further exposed this horror in a lighter manner. So glad it got the Award! So many people saw it. I have never gone to a circus b/c of the cruel treatment of most of the animals they house for people’s entertainment. I cry for the ones that suffered for years & died w/them b/c of it. When no one cared! ALL circus acts using animals should be SHUT DOWN! People w/kids have enough out there to entertain themselves with these days.

  • Gattos says:

    Well I agree with all of you but some of you people need to calm down. We see things different then how other people see it. To the trainers they think it’s all fun n games but to us, especially me, we see a cruel horrible world. Yet that does not mean we should go around making websites against a circus. If you want to help, let the government handle this, like they did already. They can put a stop to the circus (or at least the animal parts) and everyone’s happy, get me?

  • Gattos says:

    Well I agree with all of you but some of you people need to calm down. We see things different then how other people see it. To the trainers they think it’s all fun n games but to us, especially me, we see a cruel horrible world. Yet that does not mean we should go around making websites against a circus. If you want to help, let the government handle this, like they did already. They can put a stop to the circus (or at least the animal parts) and everyone’s happy, get me?

  • Annemiek Mulderij says:

    The only thing that will help is that when a circus uses animals DON’T GO !!!

  • Colleen Williams says:

    All circusses with animals in should be banned. No animal should be forcefully trained to entertain the sick human race – let the humans entertain and destroy themselves.

  • Andrea says:

    $270, not a large enough fine-compared to what RB brings in every year. The very small men who need to feel powerful take these jobs-the world is full of them. If each one of us emailed this page to 1 friend + asked them to do the same…word WILL spread.This is the WWW-we can save animals from this abuse but we MUST, MUST speak for them. Wear BUTTONS, T-SHIRTS, sign petitions,start a petition (, send this article to just 1 person…

  • Gattos says:

    Well I agree with all of you but some of you people need to calm down. We see things different then how other people see it. To the trainers they think it’s all fun n games but to us, especially me, we see a cruel horrible world. Yet that does not mean we should go around making websites against a circus. If you want to help, let the government handle this, like they did already. They can put a stop to the circus (or at least the animal parts) and everyone’s happy, get me?

  • Cindy says:

    I posted a picture of a baby elephant being abused while “training” and it was gone instantly.. go figure…. I can still post it on my site though…

  • Cindy says:

    Julie… I love the way you think… consider it done!

  • Kim says:

    That is soooo freaking sicking..then these people wonder why these animals turn on them and kill them. Ya think for once if you got beaten up you will turn against people too?

  • Danielle says:

    I have never been this sad and disgusted in my life, I feel traumatized! My heart is broken. Those employees and trainers should all go to jail for the rest of their meaningless lives!! There has to be more that we can do to get Ringling shut down for good and get all the animals to a safe and wonderful place. They’re amazing and wonderful animals and they do not deserve any of that. Please someone help them!!

  • Julie Redmond says:

    People, here’s my plan: Make a fake Facebook account (it only takes a few minutes) or use your own if you want. The go to Ringling’s Facebook page. Post pictures (find them on Google or Peta’s site) of elephants being abused, and tag the photo as Ringling. That way the photo will show up on Ringling’s Facebook page. They may take it down fast, but some people will still see the truth. If we all post one abused elephant picture, think of the chance that somebody will see it, and their mind will be opened to the way they abuse elephants.

  • Marina says:

    Here in Wisconsin, Alliance for Animals and the Elephants Living Free project are working towards a ban on allowing elephant acts in Dane County. For more information, and to post your photo supporting this ban on our website, please go to Thank you, PETA, for all you do!

  • Angee says:

    Thanks to PETA…..let’s all donate what we can and put the end to abuse….Thanks PETA for opening alot of eyes….I swore years ago I would never go to any circus and it’s been at least 25 years!!!!

  • Dawn says:

    I wish they were charged with more. I wish the trainers were put in jail. I wish they could take all the animals away & to safety. Why can’t they take them away from the circus. It is not fair.

  • Annette Mural says:

    I will never go to a circus again!!!  This is sickening, how can they do this to these animals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I cried also!!!!  

  • jimijazz says:

    The Greatest Show on insanity.

  • Beccabooo says:

    God did not put animals on this earth to be hurt and tormented for out pleasure. Just stop this. It is sickening….

  • Angela Miele says:

    Yes, please do whatever you can to inhibit this cruel behavior. Those elephants are such gentle giants. It’s very surreal that it even exists in our life. I cannot understand this horror.Leave them alone, don’t hurt them, pet them like a small creature in fear , give them LOVE>>>only LOVE…, no more bull horns, chains. PLEASE. I will never go to a circus with Animals…

  • JOAN says:


  • DrewLuvsKarin says:

    My employer recently held their annual Family Day event at the R-B, B&B Circus in San Jose, CA. They were shocked when I refused to attend, and that I had encouraged others to not go as well, due to reports of abuse to the animals. The circus poster even featured a picture of an elephant with “bobbed” ears, obviously not the natural shape of either African or Asian species. Managers insisted I was mistaken, referring me to the circus website, which brags about the “wonderful & humane treatment” the animals (especially the elephants) receive. BS! After seeing your videos of abuse, I will be referring everyone I know, to watch them as well. Thank you for exposing this horror!

  • Angela Nenno says:

    I went to the circus Last night and was greated by PETA members outside before entering who handed me information about the abuse of the animals. I read it when i got inside. I was shocked but it was just a peice of paper, right. Wrong as me and my family watched the show we couldnt help but notice the mistreatment of the animals. The tigers seemed scared as the trainer yelled and whipped them one even tryed to run back into the cage where he entered from. The elephants were not treated any better they were made to do trick that elephants never do in the wild. Like doing a handstand. I couldnt help but to cry. Upon leaving me and my husband vowed to never agian go to a circus again. Just cant help but to think that my 150 dollars spent between tickets and popcorn are used toward the abuse of those poor animals and supporting the behaver that was persented. Thank you PETA for opening my eyes.

  • Elsie Mitchell says:

    I’m just broken hearted to watch this video, how could this happen to these poor animals. These people should be prosecuted and put I jail.