Reports of Elephant Abuse at Renaissance Festival Prompt PETA Appeal

Letter to Fair Organizers Cites Reports of Beatings, Risk of Injury and Infection

For Immediate Release:
November 5, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Todd Mission, Texas – The elephant rides at the Texas Renaissance Festival have already faced a public outcry, as fair visitors took to Facebook to report seeing elephant handlers beating, jabbing, and pulling the elephants with a bullhook—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end. This morning, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—sent a letter calling on festival organizers to remove the rides from the fair’s lineup.

In its letter, PETA points out that in addition to being cruel to elephants, elephant rides place visitors at risk: On average, one person in the U.S. is killed by an elephant each year, and many more are injured. Also, active tuberculosis (TB) has been identified in more than 11 percent of the elephants in the U.S., and TB is highly transmissible from elephants to humans.

“The Texas Renaissance Festival may be celebrating a different era, but its selection of entertainment should reflect 21st century values,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the festival to protect elephants and fairgoers alike by dropping the elephant rides for good.”

For more information, please visit


PETA’s letter to Terre Albert, general manager of the Texas Renaissance Festival, follows.


November 5, 2014


Terre Albert
General Manager
Texas Renaissance Festival


Dear Mr. Albert:

I am writing on behalf of my client, PETA, to urge you to cancel the remaining scheduled elephant rides at the Texas Renaissance Festival. In support of the many would-be festivalgoers who are already urging you to cancel the rides via Facebook, I would like to offer the following information, in the hope that you will make the compassionate decision to remove the rides from your lineup.

Elephants used for rides are trained through domination, fear, and punishment with the use of bullhooks, sharp metal weapons that resemble fireplace pokers. Trainers use them to hook and stab the elephants’ sensitive skin, and festivalgoers are reportedly witnessing this abuse at your festival. Many trainers also use electric prods and rely on electric shocks to deliver painful jolts. Elephants quickly learn to associate bullhooks and electric prods with pain and, in attempts to avoid suffering, move away from the weapons. This is how trainers force elephants to plod in mundane circles for hours at a time with children on their backs. When not being forced to give rides, they are usually chained, barely able to move. In the wild, elephants walk up to 30 miles every day and have complex social networks. They experience the same loneliness and grief that humans do when they’re separated from their families and forced to live without these important relationships. There is absolutely no excuse for commandeering the lives of these beautiful, intelligent animals for the fleeting entertainment of festivalgoers.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that “you always put yourself at risk when you go near an elephant, no matter how good the trainer/handler and elephant appear to be.” On average, one person in the U.S. is killed by an elephant each year, and many more are injured. Elephant rides also pose a health risk to festival attendees. Elephants carry the human strain of tuberculosis (TB) and can easily transmit it to humans. Nearly one in five elephants in the U.S. is TB positive, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned, this disease is highly transmissible from elephants to humans, even without contact.

The Texas Renaissance Festival may be celebrating a different era, but surely, your selection of entertainment can reflect 21st-century values. Your Facebook page lit up with concerned and disappointed patrons who report that they are witnessing abuse happening right now at the Texas Renaissance Festival, and as one would-have-been patron said, “I was planning on attending for the first time but not after this post. Pathetic.” It is not too late to make the right choice. Just last week, a Renaissance fair in Florida canceled scheduled elephant rides after deciding that they were an unnecessary risk to festivalgoers. May I please hear from you immediately that you have decided to cancel these rides?

Very truly yours,

Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Deputy General Counsel | Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

 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