Elephant Abuse Caught on Camera During Circus Performance

PETA Points to Elephant Handler's History of Violently Striking Animals

For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2017

David Perle 202-483-7382

Orlando, Fla. – In advance of performances this weekend by the Bahia Shrine Circus—which is produced by the Royal Hanneford Circus—PETA has obtained a video from an audience member at a recent Kalurah Shrine Circus performance in Binghamton, New York, of notorious elephant handler Tim Frisco, who often performs with the Royal Hanneford Circus, abusing an elephant. The footage shows him violently yanking the face and trunk of a 10-year-old elephant named Val with a bullhook—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end that’s used to beat and threaten elephants. Dr. Heather Rally, a wildlife veterinarian who has watched the footage, calls it “deeply disturbing.”

Frisco has a long and horrific history of hurting elephants: He has been caught on camera viciously striking them, electroshocking them, and instructing other handlers to beat them with a bullhook until they scream in pain. At another recent Shrine performance in Pennsylvania, an audience member photographed another elephant with open, ulcerated injuries consistent with puncture wounds from a bullhook.

“The sight of a medieval torture tool sinking into a young elephant’s sensitive skin should horrify any kind person,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “Violence and cruelty are the norm at any circus that uses wild animals, which is exactly why PETA urges families to choose exclusively animal-free entertainment.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that the Carson & Barnes Circus, which provided the Kalurah Shrine Circus with Frisco’s elephant act and frequently rents elephants to the Royal Hanneford Circus, has a long record of animal-welfare violations, including failing to document treatment of veterinary problems of an elephant who lost 500 pounds in just a few months and then died. Last year, three elephants rented from Carson & Barnes by the Royal Hanneford Circus escaped and ran amok for nearly an hour, causing injuries to two of them and damage to the venue and cars in the parking lot.

Val is the youngest elephant forced to perform in a circus or other traveling act. She has been on the road since before she was even 2 years old.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind