Elephant Kills Shrine Circus Trainer

Published by PETA.

A reportedly “startled” elephant kicked a circus trainer or groom so hard that he was thrown 20 feet and died of his injuries at the scene. The attack occurred backstage at a Shrine Circus performance Friday evening in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

The elephant involved is believed to be an African elephant named Dumbo, who was captured in Africa in 1985 and belongs to Terry Frisco. PETA has previously caught Terry’s brother, Tim Frisco, beating elephants behind the scenes.

No word yet on whether circus mouthpieces are attempting to claim that the elephant was “playing” with the trainer, but if a “startled” elephant can be this dangerous, imagine the damage that a really angry elephant can inflict. It makes the video that we told you about last week—in which a trainer with the Liebel Family Circus holds a toddler in one hand as she uses a bullhook in the other to jab an elephant—all the more harrowing.

This isn’t the first time that an elephant has lethally lashed out at the guy wielding the bullhook, and it almost certainly won’t be the last. Circuses rely on an abusive training regimen that starts with beatings and intimidation from the time that elephants are still babies and doesn’t stop until they’ve performed their last headstand. Is it any wonder that some of these gentle giants eventually get fed up and fight back?

PETA has been trying to convince the Shriners to stop using animal circuses as fundraisers for years to no avail, despite the fact that their circuses are connected to a growing list of dangerous and deadly incidents involving wild animals. Last year, two elephants performing at the Murat Shrine Circus in Indianapolis, Indiana, knocked down a mobile staircase during elephant rides, resulting in a dozen children being treated by paramedics. In 2005, a trainer was stomped to death by an elephant used in a Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 2002 and again in 2003, elephants bolted from the Shrine Circus tents and went on rampages in Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively. It’s sad to think that this tragic list of deaths and injuries has failed to make the Shriners come to their senses.

Update: Recent news reports are claiming that Dumbo was trying to protect the groomer whom she stomped to death. But this happens every time someone is bludgeoned or stomped to death by an elephant or an orca: Those who profit from keeping the animals miserably bound in chains or confined to small pools always say that the animal was playing or trying to protect the person. The public should stand up and say, “Enough! We are not that gullible!” These animals are extremely intelligent. They know when to be gentle, and they know that you don’t protect or play with human beings by smashing them into the ground or the bottom of the pool. After a lifetime of being told, “Do this, do that,” being hurt with electric prods and bullhooks, and having their food withheld unless they stand on their head or tail, they crack.

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind