Cruel Circus Stunt Prompts PETA Appeal to After-School Program

PETA Calls On ARTS Program Officials Not to Partner Again With Cruel Ringling Bros.

For Immediate Release:
January 12, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Tallahassee, Fla.

Today, PETA’s humane-education division, TeachKind, rushed a letter to the ARTS after-school program calling on the group not to partner with Ringling Bros. circus again. In the letter, TeachKind points out that the elephant Asia has a history of lameness, yet Ringling Bros. continues to use her for stunts such as the one at ARTS, where Asia “painted” in front of children. As PETA has documented, Ringling also routinely beats elephants with bullhooks (weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp steel hook on one end, which are banned in jurisdictions across the country, including—in Florida alone—in Margate, Pompano Beach, and Miami Beach) to force them to perform.

“TeachKind wants teachers and parents to recognize that kids should be taught to empathize with others, not that it’s OK to condemn elephants to a lifetime of abuse for a few minutes of entertainment,” says PETA Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg. “Elephants in captivity are deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them, and that’s why PETA is calling on ARTS to book future activities with everyone’s well-being in mind.”

Compelling photos taken inside Ringling’s Florida compound expose how baby elephants used by the circus are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with steel-tipped bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods. These abusive sessions go on for several hours a day in order to force the baby elephants to learn to perform tricks out of fear of punishment.

TeachKind and PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—encourage all families to watch actor Edie Falco’s video exposé and see for themselves how circuses abuse elephants.

For more information, please visit


TeachKind’s letter to ARTS follows.


January 12, 2015


Dear Dr. Carla Hutchinson:

My name is Nina, and I’m writing from TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, which works with hundreds of educators around the country to promote compassion. I’m contacting you with regard to ARTS’ partnership with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus through the “Art Class With Asia the Elephant” event. I hope that after you review the following information, you’ll feel compelled to cancel your partnership with Ringling and refuse to distribute circus tickets or host Ringling-sponsored events through your program.

Ringling is quite publicly a very controversial business, with a lengthy, well-documented record of animal abuse and neglect. In fact, it was fined the largest amount ever imposed on a circus, $270,000, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for dozens of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Just last month, a USDA inspection report revealed that Ringling is failing to provide ailing elephants with proper veterinary care. Life for baby elephants at Ringling will always include depriving them of their natural surroundings and routinely abusing them with bullhooks—weapons that resemble fireplace pokers and can leave painful welts, abscesses, and puncture wounds and that jurisdictions across the country have banned, including Margate, Miami Beach, and Pompano Beach, Florida. I urge you to watch this behind-the-scenes video of the circus that shows Ringling trainers violently beating elephants backstage just before performances.

In their natural habitats, elephants don’t balance balls on their trunks, do headstands, or paint pictures in a room full of spectators. They do these things because they’re afraid not to. These images of Ringling training sessions show the sad reality of what happens to elephants before they are carted around the country for performances. Asia, the elephant who was brought in for your program, has a history of lameness, yet she is still forced to perform at events and in the circus.

Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a psychiatrist specializing in early childhood development, has observed:

When parents take their children to the circus, they indirectly send them the message that animals are objects to be used, and that it is OK to ignore any pain and suffering that the animals might be experiencing. These children may grow up lacking empathy …. If they are unable to recognize when someone else is in distress, they will have difficulties getting along with people.

It’s imperative that ARTS, as an educational institution, encourage empathy and respect for other living beings, so I hope you’ll agree that any partnership with the circus is wholly inappropriate. TeachKind is happy to work with you to help plan educational activities and provide you with free kid-friendly materials that will help children learn to be more compassionate toward animals. May I hear from you that you will never again work with Ringling? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,

Nina Kahn
TeachKind Coordinator, PETA


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