Circus Visiting Chamberlain Under Fire for Using Ailing Elephants

Damning Video of Elderly Elephants Merits Their Immediate Retirement

For Immediate Release:
April 14, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Chamberlain, S.D.

The El Riad Shrine Circus is hoping to perform later this month in Chamberlain using ailing animals from Carden International Circus, and PETA wants a ban on exhibiting two weak, elderly elephants named Betty and Janice, both of whom are over 50 years old. After obtaining disturbing video footage showing the elephants struggling to get through a performance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week, PETA sent a letter this morning to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to require that the elephants’ exhibitor, Brett Carden, retire them immediately.

In the newly released footage, Betty appears nearly catatonic. She walks stiffly and has difficulty sitting during the performance. Even though she already appears to have a limited capacity to move her trunk, her handler whips her several times on that highly sensitive appendage. Janice sways backstage for the majority of the show—an abnormal repetitive behavior that wildlife behaviorists say is a sign of severe psychological distress.

“These geriatric elephants deserve to live out their twilight years in peace, but instead they’re being whipped and forced to perform tricks,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on officials to intervene before the Carden circus works these long-abused animals to death.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that Betty appears to be chronically lame, likely a result of her prolonged chaining and confinement. As far back as 2011, the USDA cited the Carden circus for failing to assess and treat her stiffness. In 2017, Jenny, another elephant exhibited by Carden, died at the end of a grueling year-long tour. Video footage shows a handler dragging the struggling elephant by the trunk during rides. In addition, humans have been injured and killed by elephants used by the Cardens, including one, Carol, who crushed her handler to death

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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