Beatings, bullhooks, and betrayal: A scathing 10-page article in the November issue of Mother Jones magazine titled “The Cruelest Show on Earth” lays bare Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ dirty secrets. Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Deborah Nelson has slammed the door shut on any doubts about the circus’s entrenched culture of animal abuse and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) repeated failure to take meaningful enforcement action against the circus.
Nelson details the painful and premature deaths of baby elephants Kenny, Benjamin, and Riccardo and how the USDA barely addressed their cases. She also discusses the trauma, terror, and painful wounds that babies Doc and Angelica endured when they were forcibly removed from their mothers. Ringling employees acknowledge that elephants suffer “hook boils” (infected bullhook wounds), and records and interviews document that babies are dragged away from their frantic mothers, that elephants spend days on end chained in railroad boxcars, and that nearly all the elephants are suffering from lameness. In addition, by 2008, more than a third of Ringling’s elephants were infected with tuberculosis.
USDA officials have admitted that they take an arms-length approach to Ringling. Kenneth H. Vail, who served as the USDA’s legal counsel for many years, said, “If I were an elephant, I wouldn’t want to be with Feld Entertainment.”
Don’t wait to borrow a copy of the magazine—run out and buy the November/December issue of Mother Jones today.
Written by Jennifer O’Connor