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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

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  • Ashley Banana says:

    This is fudged up!!!! How sad they should DIE!!!!! Poor animals :,-(

  • Kaitlyn says:

    This is the video that turned me. I had not even discovered PETA when I became a vegetarian the day before. I am so proud of how far I’ve come. I never went to the circus and I encourage others to stop supporting this act of torture.

  • hayley says:

    get on the cirque de soleil bandwagon ~ its pure hard work and talent. animals arent there for entertainment…this shit has been going on for way too long.

  • buffalodancing says:

    I have seen these mighty intelligent elephants tortured to the point of attacking the trainers THEN THE ELEPHANTS ARE PUT DOWN….To bad that the animals are pushed to the point of defending themselves because the animals do not win- only the stupid humans that are responsible for the cruelty do.

  • Heather says:

    This is a very good reason not to support shows such as this. The animals go through so much pain and psychological suffering. I wish this was on the front page of every paper in the United States so everyone could see what goes on- hopefully they would think twice about going to the circus and supporting the abuse of these innocent animals.

  • Manel says:

    These Majestic Elephants are very sesitive, intelligent animals. At this circus so called animal trainers are outright evil and ruthless disgusting morans. The way one moran kept beating endlessly at the helpless elephant over and over again and again. No animal should be treated that way. Somebody should attack that evil men the same way. Then only will understand the Elephants pains and sufferings. Wake up America! This is a criminal offence. This explotation and torturing animals by the circuses must stop immediately. Those morans who make the animal suffer horrendously should be punished and imprisoned.

  • Kim Lausman Diedrich says:

    These abusers should be punished (imprisoned)and not allowed to be around animals ever again! Elephant whisperer??? This is disgusting those poor elephants, they cry in pain.

  • kristylynn says:

    This is horrid I am proud to say I have never been to the circus and my children won’t ever see one eather it brings tears to my eyes that these sweet sensitive elephants and exotic beautiful tigers are treated with such malice and ignorance :( we need to stop this now !

  • AGallegos says:

    I could never begin to understand how a human being could be so crule to an animal. What would have to be gong through someones mind while doing that. If anyone had any sense at all they would stop going and seeing these shows. What most people dont know is that all the tricks they are having these animals do actually hurts them, their bodies are not made for the way that they are being trained. I Plead with every one right now STOP SEEING THESES SHOWS IT ONLY PROMOTES ANIMAL CRUELTY!!!!!!!!!

  • Buddhajuda says:

    I love elephants and it sickens me to see them treated this way. More people need to be told. Thank you to the USDA for trying to stop this cruel practice.

  • sandy montes says:

    omg do these people have hearts honestly why dont they put a law against animals in circuses

  • alesia garafola says:

    I DONT UNDERSTAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why isnt this illegal?? I truly dont understand. Why on earth are these animals allowed to be in these shows? It makes me sick!

  • alesia garafola says:

    I DONT UNDERSTAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why isnt this illegal?? I truly dont understand. Why on earth are these animals allowed to be in these shows? It makes me sick!

  • animal saver says:

    i cant believe this circuses are sick

  • Renee says:

    I took my kids to the circus tonight and was handed a paper from a peta member, at first I was upset that she had until i read the paper, i almost left then but my kids were so excited to go, my 12 year old daughter insisted on reading the paper also. I noticed the same man that was present most of the time with the elephants was one of the main men abusing the elephants in the videos. My daughter and I sat in disgust, with tears in our eyes as we watched the trainers chase them around with the bull horns, you could see the sadness in their eyes. Then the tigers came out and they most deff were not happy, on several occasions they struck at the trainer in annoyance from his cracking whip being dangled in their faces the entire time. When we got home watched the videos and could not belive what i saw, just hitting the animals just to do it, to scare them its insane. I wish I knew how to help more=(

  • Bethany Catherine says:

    I started crying as I watched this video. I cannot believe this kind of behavior. Good Lord, if those elephants snapped, those trainers would have no idea what they signed up for because those elephants would crush them! I remember reading something in high school about these poor elephants being abused…I hated it! This makes me want to join in the fight and do all I can to stop this madness.

  • CatWhispurrer says:

    That’s a good start …. but still not nearly enough!! BOYCOTT ALL ANIMAL CIRCUS CRUELTY!!!

  • JLY my poop says:

    Damnit these a***! They are so brutal to animals and we should protest,asking them violently to shut down their business. That’s retribution.

  • Maria says:

    Oh Lord. I must have been so blinded by the “magic” of the Greatest Show on Earth. I will most definitely NEVER take my son to another show again in my life. I certainly wish I could take one of those hooks and shove it up that guy’s rear a million times. How disgusting!!! I’m ashamed to have ever supported this event. This really breaks my heart to see. Poor elephants. They look so scared and miserable in this video. Big, beautiful creatures like this should not be treated as such. Shame on them.

  • BethD says:

    We went today, I’m afraid to admit, and noticed many of the elephants bobbing their heads up and down, 3 of the elephants pooping before the performance began (I thought that was kind of a lot) and bullhooks being used as a visual threat. I doubt much has changed. The show would have been perfectly without the animal performances.

  • Raynor Allen says:

    I have never like them! because of the abuse they show to their animals! I am glad that they are being slapped with a fine. They need to be shut down and not be able to continue!

  • Seaworld_Supporter says:

    I don’t go because I’m too old for them and the aren’t very diverse. Seaworld helped me apprieciate MM better.

  • jeannette says:

    In my life i have only ever been to a circus and i was 6 years old.I hated it and asked my parents to take me home.After watching the vidio i felt sick inside, the abuse those people did tho the elephants and other animals was barbaric. Shutting down all these kind of shows would be great.The animals deserve to be kept in proper places and not have to suffer anymore. The people responsiable for what went on should be brought to justice for what they did.Fines are a good starting point but what cost should we as humans out on the misery those animals suffered!!!

  • Barbara says:

    Lisa said it all.. Animals were not born to perform . It’s absolutely disgusting to see animals suffer like this. They have to be shipped all over, they are beaten , stress … Nobody deserves this kind of treatment

  • LL says:

    This really is a shame. It’s absolutely terrible the way that animals are treated in the entertainment industry. However, comments like ‘give the animals the whips’ and ‘the so-called trainers should be thrown in jail and tortured til they die’ are not appropriate either. Seeing this video, you should not want ANYONE or ANYTHING treated with this amount of cruelty. I mean, jeez. THINK.

  • A says:

    What the heck is wrong with this guy the elephant didnt even do anything?! Disgusting seeing a performance with such ill behind the scenes.

  • lindsay says:

    good job peta! i saw a commercial years ago where it showed a man in a circus beating an elephant and that image has been burned into my mind ever since. the elephant’s head hung down-it was SO sad! i hate to even think about it. i absolutely cannot fathom how anyone could hurt or abuse an animal, it just boggles my mind. i’m beyond ecstatic that these ba***rds have been fined! i agree with ashley though, i would feel MUCH better if the animals were removed and the circus shut down for good BUT a $270,000 fine is a damn good start!

  • Brandi girves says:

    Shame on Ringling! Shame on everyone involved!!!!

  • tenster says:

    when the elephants where performing, they seemed to be doing a good job, until one of the big ones went poop in the middle of their performance show. that then showed me how scared they were to perform. I would do the same, if i was beaten at rehersals.

  • elena says:

    ban circuses all together!period.this is disgraceful.

  • Ashley says:

    I had done a research paper back in high school about animal abuse. My main focus was around the entertainment industry such as these circuses. It’s awful, disgusting, humiliating, and just leaves a person up with nightmares when seeing how these animals are treated. Worse part is the entertainment industry lies a lot about how they don’t abuse animals. Which is full of crap. This video doesn’t even show the deep stuff, it barely scratches the surface of what these animals are put through by these people. Circuses of every kind, not just the Ringling Bros are sick and twisted. They’ll throw animals in small confined spaces, hardly or never allow them food and water. An if a animal gets hurt they just let the wound fester, they don’t even clean it up. I am glad these guys finally got busted but a fine isn’t enough. These animals deserve more justice than this, they need to be removed, rehabilitated, and given new lives.

  • charles kasten says:

    the usda has seen what happens to there animals to make them perform, so why don’t they just end it period. it’s not worth it to abuse animals -all their lives. people can go to zoos or watch national geographic.the only ones profiting is the circus. this is a sick ugly disgusting unconscionable act .i really don’t believe peanuts apples or whistles will make elephants stand on their front legs on tubs ,so saying humane treatment can enforced from birth until death of an animal only sounds good- like circus lemonade

  • p says:

    what a shame..on the trainers..I know elephants well and for some reason they like me….maybe, because they are intuitive and know how people feel towards them. Elephants are among the most awesome creatures God has created. They should be revered not beaten. Wish I had something to donate. Agree, however, Ringling and other circuses should be put out of business and animals put back in the natural habitat they come from. thanks for reading.

  • Lisa says:

    I just can’t comprehend how ANYONE can still be supporting the circus by attending! What fun can possible be had watching these poor, abused, sad animals perform acts that are clearly not natural to their existence! The circus needs to be put out of business once and for all!!!!!!

  • Annastasia says:

    I took my kids to the circus last night and someone gave me a leaflet on the abuse that these animals endure at Ringling Bros. I read it and felt sad. When the elephants came out there was a certain sadness in their eyes. They looked malnourished and sickly too. The trainers ran about them with whips and my children cried when they saw them whip one back in place. Later we watched the Cat show with tigers and lions and realized their terrible plight with the trainer and his whip. The main Lion look underweight, sickly and old. He could hardly mount up. Personally, we felt that we would support Ringling’s show if they took the animals out of the show. Otherwise, they have lost our support.

  • Shelly Henn says:

    I think Ringling Brothers should be out of business. Supporting animal abuse and beatings is not entertainment. Fine them, close them, and rescue the animals from further torture

  • Adair Leonard says:

    Being a very compassionate animal lover, I don’t understand how people can be so heartless and cruel to innocent animals. These poor, defenseless animals have to endure horrible stress and pain all because of human greed, i.e., Ringling Bros, Barnam and Bailey Circus. Neither myself or my children will ever attend a circus again. Thank you PETA and USDA for exposing these shameful abusers and taking action against them.

  • Debbie says:

    I feel really bad for these animals that are being abused by those people. I hope those who are responsible for this issue will take necessary actions to stop this practices.

  • Marissa T says:

    Those so-called trainers are cowards, and I hope they pay dearly for abusing the poor animals that they force to participate in their circus !!! After watching them whip the elephants on their faces, ears, and all over their bodies, I can only assume that they have mental problems . . . maybe control issues, insecurity issues, anger management problems, etc. There’s absolutely no excuse for this animal abuse ! The most important thing these so-called trainers are training the elephants to do is how to be violent & inhumane. I think I attended the circus once when I was a young child. I will NEVER attend any circus until the day I die, and I will encourage everyone I know to do the same, for the sake of the poor animals that are violently forced to participate in them. Can’t people use their brains to find more humane ways of entertaining ourselves ? I know I can — and do !!! If these so-called trainers don’t think they’re abusing the animals under their control, then they should unchain the animals and give them the whips !

  • Linda says:

    This is terribly inhumane!!! How could they do such things to defenseless animals!!! I hope pets wins the case and keeps fighting for animals

  • Chilly-Chai says:

    My heart aches for these poor animals… Animals should be treated a whole lot better than they are now! I hope PETA continues to fight for Animals.. :(

  • megan says:

    These “so called trainers” are low life nonhuman beings that should be thrown in jail & torchered till they die!! They should be called the animals not these helpless “animals”!! Get a new job because you not doing that one right!! A protest should be held at each circus location!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Melinda says:

    I could not even finish watching this video, my heart aches for these beautiful animals.

  • leighanne spinney says:

    This video SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO STOP THIS ABUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Vicky Beard says:

    This is horrible animal abuse!

  • Kim Lausman-Diedrich says:

    I went to a circus a few years ago and thought it must be very cruel for the animals to travel so quickly between shows. The stress must be horrible. These majestic animals bravely perform with these cruel animal caretakers beating them constantly. These trainers are sadistic people it is quite plain to see. They should be arrested and punished for what they do and not allowed to work with animals ever again. The animals need to be put in sanctuaries or zoos where they have habitat and a better life.

  • Linda Walters says:

    I want to post this and the video on face book. People need to kno9w what is going on. This is horrible,unforgiveable and the people who did this to these precious elephants need to be given the same treatment that they bestoed on them. I am furious. I could not watch the whole video, it made me sick and it made me cry. NO more circus’s for me.

  • awalker1829 says:

    Unfortunate that abuse does occur in the industry, but that are bad actors in every industry. As for Ringling Bros., the USDA has little regulatory authority (if any). As a fellow government employee, I can appreciate their hesitance to do much with a large, well organized corporation such as Ringling Bros. Fining them is all that they have the authority to do without risking a protracted legal battle and possible political blowback. While it is unfortunate that animals will continue to suffer, few government employees are probably willing to risk their career.

  • somebody says:

    my parents took me to a circus when i was littler, i forgot the name and whether or not they used animal because of the rage the video made me feel

  • Marcia says:

    I’m glad they got fined, although the fine is not nearly big enough. Now, the question is: Will they pay it or just stall and get by with not paying? Too many loopholes in animal welfare laws and too little will for enforcing them.

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