Viola Davis Urges Lawmakers to Protect Elephants in Rhode Island

Oscar Nominee Joins PETA in Supporting State’s Ban on Bullhooks

For Immediate Release:
May 21, 2013

Wendy Wegner 202-483-7382

Providence — As Rhode Island’s legislature considers a proposed ban on bullhooks—weapons that circuses use to beat and intimidate elephants—Rhode Island native Viola Davis has sent a letter on PETA’s behalf urging state legislators to support the ban. As the Tony winner and Academy Award nominee explains in her letter, circuses such as Ringling Bros. beat elephants with bullhooks to show them “who’s boss” and force them to perform tricks. The proposed legislation would also prohibit chaining elephants for extended periods—another routine circus practice that hurts animals.

“Having grown up in Rhode Island and as someone concerned about cruelty to animals, I am writing on behalf of my friends at PETA to urge you to support H.B. 5853 [and S.B. 813],” writes Davis. “Today, elephant sanctuaries and most zoos never use bullhooks or other weapon-like tools to punish elephants. … I hope you will extend that decency to elephants used in circuses.”

Davis is part of a long list of celebrities—including Jada Pinkett Smith, Alec Baldwin, Olivia Munn, Demi Moore, and Edie Falco—who have teamed up with PETA to speak out against circuses that use animals.

Davis’ letters to the members of Rhode Island’s legislature are available upon request. Her letter to V. Susan Sosnowski, chair of the Committee on Environment and Agriculture, is available here. For more information, please visit

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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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