PETA has fired off a letter urging Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin, to ban elephant exhibitions following news reports that the museum brought in four elephants—one of whom had recently been exposed to a tuberculosis-positive elephant. The elephants were supplied by the notorious Carson & Barnes Circus, which did not have permits to take the animals into the state. Wisconsin requires import permits for exotic animals and prohibits transporting animals who may carry communicable diseases as well as all public contact with such animals.
Close Enough to Take Your Breath Away
Not only do many elephants carry the human strain of tuberculosis, contrary to Carson & Barnes’ misinformation and as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they also can easily transmit it to humans, even without direct contact. For example, tuberculosis carried by an elephant was recently linked to an outbreak in Tennessee among nine humans, some of whom had had no direct contact with the elephant. Elephants used in traveling exhibits like those going to Circus World are particularly at risk—the stress of traveling and performing make them more susceptible to the disease and more likely to develop a severe infection.
In addition to its total disregard for public health and state law, Carson & Barnes has a long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In late September, it paid a penalty for 10 violations of the AWA, including endangering the public and elephants. Carson & Barnes’ “animal care” director was caught on video viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook, shocking elephants with an electric prod, and instructing trainers to embed sharp metal hooks into the elephants’ flesh until the animals screamed in pain.
Circus History Is a History of Cruelty
Last year, Circus World hosted the Liebel Family Circus, which was recently charged with almost three dozen violations of the AWA.
The charges against Liebel include keeping an elephant named Nosey—who appeared at Circus World—chained so tightly by two legs that she could not lie down and could barely move, repeatedly denying her adequate veterinary care, potentially exposing her to serious infections by allowing manure to accumulate in the overgrown soles of her feet (foot ailments are the leading reason why captive elephants are euthanized), and repeatedly allowing unsupervised public contact with Nosey, who once hit a Liebel employee on the back of the head so severely that he required hospital treatment for the injury.
Abuse is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to forcing elephants to perform tricks, and elephants pose an inherent threat to human safety and health—from both disease and dangerous outbursts because of prolonged frustration. That’s why more and more cities are prohibiting or limiting circuses with exotic-animal acts, including nearby Dane County (which includes Madison), where an ordinance prohibiting elephant exhibits was recently passed.
What You Can Do
Circus World needs to get with the times and consign human endangerment and cruelty to animals to the scrapheap of history. Because our pleas to Circus World Executive Director Steve Freese have been ignored, please join PETA in calling on Ellen Langill, president of the Wisconsin Historical Society Board of Curators—which owns Circus World—to stop exhibiting elephants.