Wound on Elephant With Missoula-Bound Circus Sparks Federal Complaint

Abscess Consistent With Violent Use of Bullhook—PETA Urges Residents to Avoid Abusive Circus

For Immediate Release:
April 25, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382

Missoula, Mont. — PETA has sent a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for an investigation into a large abscess that was photographed on the left hip of an elephant scheduled to perform with the Western Montana Shrine Club Circus in Missoula on Friday and Saturday. PETA received a photo taken by a member of the public and had it examined by a veterinarian with decades of experience working with captive elephants. The veterinarian reports that the wound is likely what is referred to in the industry as a “hook boil,” which results after an elephant has been violently beaten or gouged with a bullhook—a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook at one end that is used by circuses to punish elephants for failing to obey commands quickly. In the complaint, PETA urges the USDA to take appropriate enforcement action.

“Physically abusing animals forced to perform in circuses is against the law, and a wound like this one is consistent with a nasty bullhook beating,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “Circuses that still use animals, keep them in shackles, and train them with force are places of misery for them, so the last place to take kids is to the circus.”

The various Shrine circuses across the country get their animals from exhibitors that are notorious for repeatedly violating the animal-care and public-safety provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The Western Montana Shrine Club Circus is currently using elephants supplied by the notorious Carson & Barnes Circus. The USDA has cited and fined Carson & Barnes for numerous violations of the AWA, including abusive elephant-handling practices. Other violations include failing to provide elephants with adequate veterinary care and clean water. Last year, Carson & Barnes paid a penalty for 10 violations of the AWA, including for endangering both animals and the public.

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