PETA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after someone in the audience sent us this video showing a handler with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ Red Unit hooking and striking an elephant named Luna—who has a history of leg problems—with a bullhook (a weapon used by the circus that resembles a fireplace poker):
Exotic-animal veterinarian Dr. Mel Richardson, observing that Luna was stiff in one of her legs—a sign of painful arthritis, one of the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized—determined that Luna was most likely not feeling well and didn’t want to perform the trick, which required her to rear up on her hind legs. But the callous trainer continued to hook her in order to force her to perform—actions that Dr. Richardson described as “abusive.”
[Luna] is already giving him the indication that she is not going to do this trick at the 10 [second] mark. She appears to pull toward her left for a second and [the trainer] goes to her. He keeps saying ‘Luna move up.’ He strikes her at 15 [seconds]. Watch her, she is lowering her body and right leg in avoidance and starting to back up. He hooks her in her right tush pocket at 19-20 [seconds]. (Female Asian elephants do not have true tusks but sometimes have shorter second incisors called “tushes.”)
Luna responds to this abuse by cowering.
And this is just what Ringling trainers do in front of the audience. Behind the scenes, they are fond of what they refer to as “tune-ups”: screaming at and beating elephants as soon as the show is over as punishment for the animals’ failure to do exactly what they were told to do.
We turned this new video evidence over to the USDA and filed a complaint, citing yet more violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by Ringling, which holds the record for the most complaints. We are urging the USDA to investigate all the Red Unit elephants for bullhook wounds and to examine Luna for signs of illness and injury that would preclude her, by law, from performing. How much longer will these vulnerable elephants be forced to endure this abuse?
This abuse is par for the course for Ringling, which has already paid the largest fine in circus history for dozens of violations of the AWA.
Please contact the USDA and ask the agency, on the heels of yet another video showing that Ringling trainers beat elephants, to revoke Ringling’s animal exhibitor license and pursue criminal charges against its trainers.