From PETA.ORG. Some sweet – and arresting – images. – R.T.
PETA’s Lettuce Ladies have toured the world — from England to India, and beyond — with their vegan message, helping countless folks turn over a new leaf.
They’re culturally conscious advocates who encourage people everywhere to ditch meat by offering them free, delicious, plant-based meals, …
… vegan starter kits and leaflets bursting at the seams with information about how our choices affect animals.
Lettuce Ladies embody empowerment! Our advocates are all volunteers. Lettuce Ladies choose to turn heads to protect animals, improve people’s health, and help fight climate change.
They know that, unlike themselves, millions of animals suffering and dying on factory farms and in slaughterhouses are never given the chance to consent. Cows, pigs, chickens, minks, foxes, and all other animals exploited by the food and fashion industries have no say in what happens to their bodies, so our Lettuce Ladies use their own to call attention to the plight of these living beings.
Today, in a society that uses scantily clad models to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers, those who use their bodies as a political or an emotional statement to call for justice and compassion — as our Lettuce Ladies do — are a breath of fresh air!
By Craig Shapiro
The writing on the wall couldn’t have been clearer: protests outside every venue, empty seats inside and a seismic shift in the public’s attitude toward keeping animals in captivity and beating them until they perform. After years of stonewalling, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally acknowledged the message. A blatant animal exploiter since its inception almost 150 years ago, it announced this month that it’s going dark in May.
For the animals in the circus, the final show can’t come soon enough. But if Ringling — whose trainers kept elephants in chains and beat them with bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end) and will keep whipping lions and tigers until the curtain falls — can acknowledge that the days of abusing animals are coming to an end, how long will it be before other circuses follow suit?
Not long: Cole Bros. Circus folded its tent last year, the Big Apple Circus recently filed for bankruptcy and audiences are sparse at Shriners-sponsored circuses.
The public is rightfully appalled by the horrific abuse that circuses like Carson & Barnes inflict on animals, such as viciously beating elephants until they scream, as well as by the negligence that has allowed elephants to escape and run amok. The U.S. Department of Agriculture filed charges against the circus for two 2014 incidents that put elephants and the public at risk.
In the first, three elephants were on the run for nearly an hour after being frightened by a raucous crowd in Missouri. Two of them were injured. A month later in Pennsylvania, an adult and child got dangerously close to an elephant and took a photo. Carson & Barnes is lucky that this grievous safety violation didn’t result in catastrophe: Elephants who are forced to perform in the circus and spend their lives in chains have been known to snap.
The Kelly Miller Circus has a sordid history of federal Animal Welfare Act violations, including public endangerment and failure to provide veterinary records. The outfit still hauls an aging African elephant named Anna Louise around the country. She was taken from her home and family in Zimbabwe and has spent three decades alone, even though these intelligent, social beings need the companionship of other elephants in order to thrive.
Animal abuse and exploitation aren’t limited to circus tents. Orcas, dolphins and other marine animals imprisoned in SeaWorld’s aquatic circuses are also denied everything that’s natural and important to them. But the abusement park is beginning to see the writing on the wall.
Bowing to public pressure and a ruling by the California Coastal Commission, it ended its orca-breeding program in 2016.
It has said, though, that it will keep holding orcas in tiny concrete tanks, where they could languish for decades — if they live that long — unless they’re released to seaside sanctuaries, where they could swim free, socialize and experience some semblance of a natural life.
Nearly 40 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch, including Tilikum, the subject of the lauded documentary Blackfish. His death on January 5, after more than three decades in captivity, moved compassionate people around the world. But the sea change in public opinion isn’t new: The company’s attendance and profits have been tanking for years, and as a result, 320 employees were recently laid off.
It’s high time that Carson & Barnes Circus, the Kelly Miller Circus, SeaWorld and other animal exploiters followed Ringling’s example and did what’s right: Empty the tanks and unlock the cages.
By Amy Skylark Elizabeth
I just watched the recent video “allegedly” (as the news reports put it) showing a man who was beating the living hell out of a camel in a live Nativity scene, and I’m bristling with anger. “Those poor camels have been smacked, kicked, choked by being pulled to the ground every time they try and stand up. My kids and I are absolutely heartbroken seeing them treat the camels this way. We didn’t even get the worst part recorded,” wrote the person who posted the now-viral video.
The display in question — which takes place annually at a medical center in Kentucky — has been canceled this year in light of this disturbing incident, but the facility claims that it has been renting animals from the same company for more than 20 years.
It’s chilling to watch YouTube videos of the center’s Nativity scenes in prior years and see the sheep, camels and donkeys used as props. As someone who has two donkeys who were rescued from abusive situations, I can only hope that all these animals weren’t also “allegedly” smacked, kicked and choked.
One thing that isn’t “alleged” is that animals used in Nativity displays are magnets for abuse. In 2014, a little donkey was crushed to death after a large man climbed into his pen and sat on his back to pose for pictures. He slowly died from injuries, which were likened to being “burst inside.” Other incidents include the barbaric beating of a donkey by three men in Virginia and the arrest of a West Virginia man who was caught sexually molesting a sheep used in a Nativity scene.
Some animals, frightened and confused, have broken away from displays. Anyone who has ever been around donkeys knows that they view dogs as predators. Even after two years, my miniature donkey Sam still becomes fearful and agitated when he sees my seven-pound Chihuahua. So it came as no surprise when I read about an incident involving a Nativity display in Richmond, Virginia, in which dogs attacked and mauled two sheep, causing a terrified donkey to bolt into the street, where he was struck by a car. All three animals had to be euthanized. A camel named Ernie was also hit and killed by a car when he escaped from a Maryland churchyard.
Even if they aren’t hurt or killed, animals used in seasonal displays often live in a perpetual state of discomfort and stress. Like all donkeys, my Luna is naturally cautious and doesn’t like sudden movements or loud noises. Yet donkeys and other animals are carted from one event to the next and subjected to a constant barrage of unfamiliar noises, camera flashes and activity while strangers try to touch them. Donkeys also have a hard time seeing things directly in front of their noses, so the sudden thrust of a hand at their muzzle or between their ears can easily frighten them, causing them to bite or kick
There are also other dangers lurking in the manger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that such displays put the public’s health at risk— and children are the most vulnerable to diseases including anthrax, salmonella, rabies, E. coli and ringworm. Infections are spread through direct contact with animals or even by simply touching the area surrounding an exhibit.
It doesn’t take a wise man or woman to see how quickly a season steeped in magic can turn tragic when live Nativity scenes are involved. I would never consider subjecting Sam or Luna to such a cruel spectacle.
And after watching this haunting video of Christmas present, I hope kind people will join me in refusing to patronize live-animal Nativity displays so that they can be relegated to Christmas past—where they belong.
By Jennifer O’Connor
Celebrities wield considerable influence on cultural trends, like it or not. When Oprah does a 21-day vegan cleanse, it makes headlines. When Amal Clooney rocks a Stella McCartney sheath, sales soar. However, one trend that seems innocuous — but is actually damaging — is the pressure on stars to have their photos taken with exotic animals used as “props.”
Celebrities who are asked to pose with wild animals for a magazine spread or who do so while on vacation invariably have good intentions and even love animals, so they are easy marks for the often mercenary and merciless amusement parks and sham “animal orphanages.” These businesspeople drool at the thought of posting or retweeting pictures of a star cuddling with a tiger cub or captive orca. Kind people are naturally drawn to places that claim to offer exotic animals refuge and are eager to see elephants paint, to cuddle with bear cubs or to swim with dolphins, but exposé after exposé has revealed that many of these outfits are breeders, dealers or exhibitors exploiting Hollywood’s goodwill and generosity.
At the recently shuttered Tiger Temple in Thailand, 40 dead cubs were found in a freezer, secretly slaughtered to make tiger wine and other folk remedies for sale on the black market. But it isn’t just the “tiger temples” that are being busted. The number of tourist traps that have tacked the word “sanctuary” or “rescue” onto their names has skyrocketed in recent years. Some are more brazen than others. Tons of celebrities, from Debra Messing to the Kardashian clan, have missed the bigger picture when visiting Mexico’s Black Jaguar–White Tiger Foundation, for example. Touting itself as a rescue organization, this facility refuses to spay or neuter animals and allows “sponsors” (i.e., big donors) to hold, cuddle and take selfies with big cats. Places like this use these celebrity photos to keep visitors coming through the gates.
Many exhibitors continually breed the animals just so they’ll have a constant supply of young animals in order to sell photo ops to people like Beyoncé and Jay Z. Of course the babies are adorable, but they grow fast, and within a few weeks, they are too big to handle. They’ll spend the rest of their lives, sometimes decades, in cramped and barren cages — or even be killed.
All over Asia, elephants are kept chained in trekking camps. A few camps are working to help elephants in trouble, but the vast majority are not, and training methods are barbaric and cruel. As soon as the cameras are gone after someone like Prince William poses with an elephant, the chains go back on and the bullhooks come out.
The same with swim-with-dolphins excursions: I’m sure Rhianna had no inkling that while she can come and go at will, there are metal bars inside those tanks, and the dolphins will remain trapped in that one place until the day they die. When Justin Bieber petted a tiger at a zoo, did he have a clue that the zoo owner had been charged with cruelty to animals? Probably not. And that has to change.
Fans, tell the stars: Stay away from exotic-animal photo ops, and the animals (not the animal exploiters) will be grateful. Of course, you don’t have to be famous to make a difference. Whether right here at home or at an exotic locale abroad, every one of us must fight the temptation to pose with a panther or cuddle a cub.
By Mitch Goldsmith
Like the rest of the nation, and as an openly gay man, I am stunned and heartbroken by the carnage in Orlando. While we as a society debate the factors—anti-gay sentiment, misguided fundamentalism, all-too-easy access to assault weapons—that led to the deadliest mass public shooting in American history, as President Obama rightly noted, “We know enough to say this was an act of terror, and an act of hate.”
Members of the LGBTQ community know what it’s like to feel the sting of mindless intolerance and hatred simply because of who we are. And for many of us, this experience of irrational bigotry informs our advocacy—not only for gay and transgender rights but also for the rights of others who are oppressed, including individuals of other species.
While our country mourns and discusses ways to prevent future outbreaks of such violence, if any good can come of this tragedy, I hope that it will engender continued progress against biases that harm so many of us who are perceived as “different,” including animals.
Animals’ lives are as important to them as ours are to us. They experience fear, love, grief, joy and pain just as we all do, though often their feelings are dismissed as unimportant. Billions of animals are slaughtered, experimented on, shot, poisoned, beaten, shackled, drowned and dissected. This happens routinely, despite the availability of kinder options.
If we truly reject violence, as we all say we do, we must reflect on the torment that animals are forced to endure every day, out of sight, just because they are deemed “different” from us and therefore easy to exploit. And then we must also act. By choosing to eat a vegan meal rather than a meat-based one, buying shampoo from a cruelty-free company or going to a concert rather than the circus, we can easily make a difference. These may seem like simple actions, but our day-to-day choices matter. How we go about our daily lives can perpetuate injustice, or help bring about fairness and tolerance.
I’m not the first person to make this connection, of course. Leaders of social justice movements have historically recognized that the liberation of one oppressed group is linked to the liberation of all the others. The best way to end bigotry is for social justice advocates of all stripes to work side by side.
Steven Simmons, a respected PETA staffer and gay rights activist who died of AIDS in the mid-1990s, wrote, “It’s time for us to end this hierarchy of who has the right to live, who deserves not to suffer, who should be respected, [the idea] that there’s a limit to the amount of compassion that we can have for our fellow creatures.”
It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and it’s worth noting that after his passing, as the concepts of gay rights and animal rights began to spread, his widow, Coretta Scott King, became an outspoken LGBT advocate and a vegan.
Members of the LGBTQ community have fought long and hard to overcome the violence, hatred and prejudice directed at us just because of who we are, and the massacre in Orlando reminds us that there is still much work to be done. But as a society, we must not limit the scope of our concern. Those of us who sincerely want to foster a climate of compassion and peace must have the courage to speak out and stand up against all forms of violence.
By Paula Moore
As you read this, baby seals are being shot to death — or their soft skulls are being crushed with hakapiks, which are hooked clubs with piercing metals tips — on the ice floes off the coast of Canada. Sealers will be allowed to kill up to 400,000 harp seals during this year’s commercial slaughter, all for something that no one even wants: their fur. The seals’ skin will be torn off, and their bodies will be dumped in the sea or left to rot on the ice.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Canada’s cruel commercial seal slaughter had ended years ago. Indeed, as far back as 2005, Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham reported that because of limited media coverage, 60 percent of Canadians were “blissfully unaware that the seal hunt still exists.” But this is one instance in which ignorance is not bliss. Baby seals are helpless and have no way to escape from the sealers’ clubs and guns, so it is up to us to speak out and stop this barbaric slaughter.
And let’s get one thing straight: Although sealers object to calling these animals “babies,” that’s exactly what they are. Many of the young seals are slaughtered before they have even eaten their first solid meal or learned how to swim. While sealers are not allowed to kill “whitecoats,” seals can be killed as soon as they lose their iconic white natal fur at just a few weeks of age. Most are killed when they are between 3 weeks and 3 months old.
And the commercial slaughter is as wasteful as it is cruel. Ten years ago, sealers killed about 350,000 seals, but in 2015, that number dropped to 35,000 – the lowest in two decades. Fewer than 1,000 sealers have participated in the slaughter in recent years because of a lack of markets for seal-derived products. Seal fur processors admit that they are stockpiling pelts because they can’t sell them.
That’s because compassionate people around the world want nothing to do with this bloody business. Russia — which at one time had been importing 95 percent of Canadian seal pelts — has banned seal fur and other seal-derived products, as have the United States, the European Union, Mexico and Taiwan. And despite years of marketing efforts in China to create a demand for seal skins and meat there, it has not shown much interest in buying these cruelly obtained products, either.
So if seal fur isn’t allowed in fashion capitals like New York and Paris, and public sentiment around the world is firmly against the slaughter, why is it still going on?
The sealing industry survives only because of government bailouts. The Canadian government pours millions of tax dollars into propping up this dying industry, which has long cost Canada more money to support than it brings in, primarily for the shameful reason that the major federal parties want to control parliamentary swing seats in Newfoundland and Labrador.
That money could be better spent promoting Canadian businesses with brighter futures and helping sealers make the transition into other types of work. Letting the sealing industry limp along is not fair to either the seals or the sealers.
Please take a moment to urge Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is known for his progressive views on social justice issues, to usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility and compassion by ending federal subsidies of the commercial seal slaughter. (Visit PETA.org to find out how.) Then use your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to help spread the word and get more people involved. The commercial seal slaughter is a relic of a less enlightened past, and it needs to end.
By Dr. Hope Ferdowsian and Dr. Carol Tavani
There is no longer any serious disagreement among scientists that humans aren’t the only animals who have the capacity to suffer physically and mentally. Elephants, great apes, orcas, dogs, cats and many others can experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and compulsive disorders.
We know that humans and other animals suffer in parallel ways because of similarities in brain structure, physiology, behavior and responses to comparable medical interventions. It’s likely that animals suffer even more than many humans generally, simply because it’s impossible for them to make sense of what is happening to them, escape from it or alter their conditions.
In humans, PTSD and mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, are commonly diagnosed after acute, repeated or chronic trauma. These types of stressors can sometimes overwhelm normal responses, which can cause persistent physiological and structural changes in the brain.
Brain structures and neuroendocrine mechanisms associated with mood and anxiety disorders are shared across a wide range of vertebrates. The hippocampus, found in all mammals, is a brain structure involved in memory storage and retrieval. In humans, PTSD has been associated with reductions in hippocampal volume or activity, perhaps because of recurrent and chronically elevated levels of cortisol, followed by changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which helps regulate stress.
Abnormalities of this axis have been observed and documented in animals subjected to confinement, restraint, isolation or surgical procedures—all of which are routinely faced by orcas in SeaWorld’s tanks. Like humans with PTSD, throughout their lives, captive orcas suffer from threats to their physical health and families as well as exhibiting persistent fear, distress, avoidant behaviors and increased aggression.
Intelligent, sensitive orcas are waiting for a reprieve from their daily suffering. As is the case with humans, the best way to alleviate their distress is by removing the conditions that contribute to it—including imprisonment, social isolation and painful procedures—and by giving them the opportunity to live as nature intended.
Ultimately, we must ask ourselves, as a society, how we will allow those who are the most vulnerable to us — both human and nonhuman — to be treated.
As we’ve seen with SeaWorld, an impassioned public response can make all the difference. It’s time to acknowledge that justice for animals is the great social movement of our time and that the time for making it a reality is now.
ICT contributor Steve Baer – one of the planet’s most passionate animal rights activists! We love you, Steve!!! – did a magnificent job on this elephants-in-circuses cover story.
We repost it today because Ringling is in Worcester this weekend and people need to know THE TRUTH ABOUT RINGLING and CIRCUS ANIMAL SUFFERING.
Most Worcesterites see it our way now – that elephants, big cats and other wild animals do not belong in railroad box cars (no air conditioning in summer, no heat in winter), should not be chained for hours and hours, should not be dressed in tutus, made to jump through burning hoops – physically and emotionally demeaned – at the mercy of bullhooks, whips …
LET US NOW WORK TO RETIRE BIG CATS FROM CIRCUSES!
LET’S MAKE SURE RETIRED RINGLING ELEPHANTS GO TO ACCREDITED ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES!
Here is actor Alec Baldwin teaching us all about the beautiful elephant!
– Rosalie Tirella
Elephants and Circuses
By Steve Baer
In June 2000, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute, and Tom Rider, a former employee of Ringling Brothers, filed a lawsuit against Ringling Brothers in Federal District court under the Endangered Species Act.
The lawsuit charges that the circus uses a stick with a sharpened metal hook on the end (called a “bullhook” or “ankus”) to repeatedly beat, pull, push, torment and threaten elephants. This type of aggression should be illegal, and is, but only because the recipients of the beatings were highly endangered Asian Elephants. Other animals in the circus, unfortunately, are not given the same level of protection. The intention of the lawsuit was to immediately stop Ringling’s inhumane mistreatment of animals in the circus.
It wasn’t, however, until October 2006, a year after a September 2005 court order by a Federal District judge who announced that he will incarcerate Ringling’s lawyers and executives if they do not turn over critical veterinary documents that Ringling disclosed their internal veterinary records. The records revealed Ringling Brothers severe abuse of the elephants.“[We] hope the spotlight continues to shine on the use of inhumane chains and bullhooks and Ringling’s cruel behind-the-scenes treatment of elephants,” said Nicole Paquette, G e n e r a l C o u n s e l a n d Director of L e g a l Affairs at the Animal Protection Institute.
“ T h e Court has run out of patience for R i n g l i n g Bro t h e r s ’ s t a l l i n g ploys,” added M i c h a e l Markarian, president of The Fund for A n i m a l s . ” This trial will come not a moment too soon, as R i n g l i n g ’s e l e p h a n t s continue to suffer every day from abusive discipline and prolonged chaining.”
Elephants are not domestic pets. They are wild animals. The same is true of lions, tigers, and bears. To be trained for the circus, an elephant had to have been chained down and had the spirit repeatedly beaten out of him or her by a team of “animal trainers.” The “trainers” use baseball bats, metal pipes, ax handles, metal prods, and sticks. The intention of the “trainers” is to show the elephant who is boss. The elephant, being an emotionally sensitive creature, as well as having a sensitive skin, is known to cry during such sessions. The torment, which doesn’t end for days, leaves behind a mere shell of the former animal. The elephant suffers emotional scars, and often physical scars too.
One “trainer” for a major circus was caught on under cover video saying “You’ve got to make them scream – You’ve got to make them cry!” in reference to how to make an elephant ready for performing in a circus.
According to Henry Ringling North in his book “The Circus Kings,” the big cats are “chained to their pedestals, and ropes are put around their necks to choke them down.” Writes Mr. Ringling North, “They work from fear.” Bears may have their noses broken while being trained to “teach” them to respond to commands, and their paws burned to force them to stand on their hind legs.
Once animals have learned to feel helplessness and have become spiritually drained, they are kept in a state of submission through various mechanisms.
Animals, such as bears, may be forced into tight fitting muzzles so they will remain subdued and discouraged from protecting themselves. The muzzles interfere with vision and respiration. Similarly, tight collars are employed to make animals more manageable. Others have their teeth removed. Chimpanzees and bears reportedly had their teeth knocked out by a hammer. Animals are declawed, defanged, and/or tranquilized to maintain control over them.
Elephants are forced to perform tricks by being hit with the ankus and electric prods. The ankus has a long handle with a sharp metal hook. It is jabbed into the most sensitive parts of an elephant’s body – under the trunk, behind the ears, around the eyes, inside their mouth, behind the knees, and in the genital region. Elephants are kept in fear, so they can be easily controlled by the circus.
Frequently an elephant will sustain an injury while being forced to perform an unnatural movement, such as balancing on two feet on a stool. Undercover investigators as recently as July 2006, have videotaped trainers beating elephants. Ringling’s own “Animal Behaviorist” in a January 2005 e-mail, recounted to Ringling’s General Manager that she saw an elephant named Lutzi “dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked” after a handler “hook[ed] Lutzi under the trunk three times and behind the leg once in an attempt to line her up for the Tmount.” (A “T-mount” is a stunt where two elephants and at least one person stand on the back of a kneeling elephant.)
An elephant cannot always carry his or her weight on two legs, so a torn ligament is not uncommon. If the injuries are left untreated, it can be disastrous for the elephant.
Make no mistake about it, the whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bull-hooks, and other enslavement tools used during circus acts and training sessions are reminders to you, and to the animals, that they are being forced to perform. Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, or jump through rings of fire. In contrast to the exciting public relations hype associated with circuses, animals in the circus live a dismal life of domination, confinement, and violent training.
On The Road
Most circus animals usually live and travel in small, barren transport cages. Their cages are often so small that it is difficult for the animals to turn around. The animals are hauled around the country in poorly ventilated trailers and boxcars for up to 50 weeks a year in all kinds of extreme weather conditions. Animals defecate, urinate, eat, drink and sleep in the same small cramped cages. Access to the basic necessities of food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate. Tigers and lions who naturally secure a territory of 75 to 2,000 square miles are often forced to live and travel in cages only 4 feet wide by 6 feet long by 5 feet tall.
Circus animals who are not confined to cages may often be chained or tethered almost the whole day. Most circuses routinely chain their elephants, while ungulates such as camels, zebras, and horses are tethered or stalled.
Under sworn testimony to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, witnesses and former circus employees have reported that elephants are normally chained by one front leg and one rear leg. Chains are usually, although not always, long enough to permit the elephant to take a step or two forward or backwards, and to lie down. Elephants are also kept chained in enclosed boxcars where they stand in their own excrement and urine for days unable to move around, smell fresh air, or find intellectual stimulation. Reportedly, circus elephants are confined in this way for 20 or more hours each day. The prolonged standing in wet, unsanitary conditions can lead to physical problems – such as arthritis and life threatening foot problems (foot rot, cracked nails, and infected cuticles) – and psychological problems. In the wild, elephants travel tens of miles each day. The inadequate exercise that elephants enslaved by the circus experience contributes to their decline in health.
In sworn testimony, Tom Rider, a former Ringling Brothers elephant barn-keeper stated, “After three years of working with elephants in the circus, I can tell you that they live in confinement and they are beaten all the time when they don’t perform properly.”
Other former Ringling Brothers employees have spoken out against behind-the-scenes animal cruelty. Former Ringling performer Kelly Tansy commented, “On my very first day with the circus, I witnessed animal cruelty. I saw an elephant being beaten in what appeared to be a disciplinary action. The beating was so severe that the elephant screamed. I have come to realize, through all the circuses that I have worked for, that mistreatment of animals is a standard part of training and is thought to be a ‘necessary’ part of exhibiting them. Additionally, Tansy reports, “I have seen chimps locked in small cages constantly when not performing; elephants chained continuously; and even animals being beaten during performances.”
The continual frustration of wild animals who are unable to engage in their instinctive behaviors can lead the animals to some serious psychological problems. Stereotypic actions such as hyper-aggression, apathy, selfmutilation, bar-biting, and pacing are indicative of psychological maladies. Frustrated by the lack of ability to move elephants repeatedly bob their heads and sway back and forth; some repeatedly rattle their chains with their trunks. Both of these actions are signs of neurotic behavior. Animals in the circus are often deprived of food and water to induce them to perform, as well as to prevent untimely defecation while they are in public view.
Even if it was possible to supply circus animals with all their material wants, something vital would still be lacking. What’s lacking is the joy that is associated with simply having the ability to evade being forced to do something.
Under natural conditions, in the wild, elephants have a life span of about 60 years. Elephants are normally migratory, traveling over 4,000 miles a year. Elephants have poor eyesight, but all of their other senses—hearing, smell, taste, and touch—are acute. Their trunk is frequently at work picking up scents of food and danger from the ground and air. Elephants can smell water at great distances and can hear certain sounds more than a mile away. Elephants in the wild dine on a wealth of plant parts—leaves, twigs, bark, shoots, fruit, flowers, roots, tubers, and bulbs.
Female elephants are among the few mammals, including humans, that live beyond their reproductive years. The typical cow will end her reproductive years at around 45 years old. During this post-reproductive period between 45 and 60 plus years, she assists in the care of the young of other elephants.
Elephants display complex, highly social behavior, living in tightly knit families headed by the oldest females. These elephants remain together for life. The family also defends the young, sick, old, and disabled from predators. Elephants are highly emotional individuals. They express joy, pleasure, and compassion, as well as sadness and grief. Wild elephants have been known to celebrate births of new elephants and to grieve and even shed tears over the death of a family member.
It is a shame and a travesty of morality that for the sake our children’s and our own momentary entertainment we encourage so much distress to come to pass on the families and the young of elephants.
What are we teaching children?
Circuses use animals to appeal to children and the child nature in adults. Observing animals at the circus, however, teaches children nothing about the natural behaviors of other species. They may learn about the size, shape and color of the animals, but behavior patterns, social interactions, intelligence, hunting instinct, maternal care giving, food gathering and movement patterns are absent. Instead, children are presented with images of either ferocious or stupid animals, whose seemingly only purpose is to amuse humans. The child unconsciously takes home from the circus the feeling that it is acceptable to exploit another being… animal or human.
Dr. Michael W. Fox, a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and former professor of psychology reveals that “Parents have told [him] that they do not take their children to the circus where there are performing animals because they know intuitively, empathically, that it is wrong.”
Dr. Fox acknowledges that exposing children to “covert animal cruelty and overt domination, control, and exploitation teaches children that it is culturally acceptable, and the norm, to subjugate other sentient beings [humans included] and make them perform unnatural acts.” According to Dr. Fox, “The child’s nascent capacity to empathize with other living beings is certainly… crippled.” Dr. Fox asserts that “To expose and subject sensitive and impressionable children to the wild animal-abusing circus is child abuse.”
Protect yourself. A deadly and highly contagious human strain of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis or TB) is infecting and killing captive elephants. TB is an airborne disease that spreads through tiny droplets in the air.
According to Dr. John Lewis of the International Zoo Veterinary Group, “[I]f tuberculosis is diagnosed in an elephant there are clear public health implications as the disease can be spread by close contact with infected animals [and] people.” Circuses routinely allow members of the public to feed, pet, and ride elephants.
TB is difficult to identify in elephants. Elephants are too large to be x-rayed, skin tests are unreliable, and trunk wash cultures only indicate whether the elephant has active TB. Circuses may also intentionally mislabel trunk wash specimens from infected animals using a TBnegative animal as the donor. No test can determine if an elephant is harboring a TB infection. Infected elephants may exhibit no symptoms of TB or may suffer from chronic weight loss, diminished appetite, chronic nasal discharge, coughing, and intolerance to exercise.
An extremely thin elephant, Lota, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1996. A photo taken in May 2001 shows a child petting her at a circus. A few months later, this elephant was taken off the road and again given tuberculosis treatment
Most circuses have been cited by the USDA for failure to comply with TB testing requirements for elephants and handlers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has determined that USDA veterinary medical officers and animal care inspectors who conduct elephant inspections may be at risk for TB infection.
Two police officers, one a fairly regular looking 5-feet 5-inch tall man and the other a very muscular 6-feet 4- inch tall man, were covering a detail at a circus near Worcester. They were asked by a citizen of the town “If one of the [three] elephants rampage what are you prepared to do.” The shorter police officer motions toward the larger police officer and replies, “I’ll hide behind him!” In truth there isn’t much more most people could do. Once a stressed out elephant rebels against a trainer’s physical dominance, the rampage is nearly impossible to stop without lethal force. In the event that an elephant runs amok, circus personnel cannot protect themselves, nor can they protect the general public.
An elephant who went berserk in Florida in 1992 with five children on her back was shot with more than 50 rounds of ammunition before an officer was located who happened to have armor-piercing bullets specially designed by the military to penetrate steel.Would you want your child on the back of an elephant that is being shot at?
In 1994, a stressed out circus elephant name Tyke could not take the abuse any longer. Her deadly rampage lasted an hour in downtown Honolulu. Department-issued semi-automatic pistols were useless. A zoo veterinarian’s lethal injections had no effect. The police finally located a high-powered counter-sniper rifle and fired three rounds into her heart. Tyke died after having been shot 87 times.
Where Are the Regulating Bodies?
The only federal law regulating the treatment of most wild animals in circuses is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is inadequate and is inconsistently enforced. Circuses that do not comply with the Act are often given several opportunities to remedy violations. The USDA, itself determined that they “cannot ensure the humane care and treatment of animals as required by the AWA.”
According to Dr. Peggy Larson, a former USDA inspector and a veterinarian, “Circus animals are poorly inspected under the USDA Animal Welfare Act.” Dr. Larson stated that USDA veterinarians, who concern themselves primarily with housing and husbandry, do not know how to diagnose diseases in wild animals. And since neither a large animal practitioner nor a small animal veterinarian is equipped to handle elephants or big cats, circus animals are often not treated when they need care. Dr. Larson concluded, “USDA compliance is at best hopelessly ineffective.”
It can not be overstated that the vigilance and help of the public is essential when it comes to identifying and reporting circus animal abuse. If it were not for the help of concerned and compassionate people the truth about Ringling Brothers Circus cruelty and other circuses would still be well hidden and left unchecked.
Many uniformed people see elephants and other circus animals as being something of an American cultural tradition. Often, though, after becoming informed that no circus can possibly provide the right environment or proper care for such creatures, people find it unconscionable to allow an animal circus into town. Over 50 municipalities across the US, from Marin County CA to Weymouth MA prohibit circuses from operating in their community if they have elephants or other wild animals.
Ringling Brothers Circus- The Cruelest Show On Earth Industry Leader
Of all the animal circuses, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is the most diabolical and manipulative, not only to the animals, but also to the public.
Ringling Bros. public relations department has been working overtime to deceive the public into believing that animals imprisoned in the circus are “treated like family.” But no amount of misleading propaganda can sanitize the circus’s horrific record of animal neglect and their sabotage of the work of animal advocacy groups.
Since 1993, Ringling Brothers has been cited for more than one hundred deficiencies in animal care during inspections conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The circus has consistently opposed legislation and regulations to improve the conditions of captive wildlife. In California, for example, Ringling Bros. opposed legislation to limit the time an elephant may be confined in chains in a 24-hour period. Ringling Brothers has been investigated by the USDA as a result of allegations of cruelty to animals made by former circus workers, one of whom testified before Congress about his experiences with the circus. Since late 1998, three former Ringling Brothers employees have stated that the circus’s elephants, including the babies, receive regular beatings. The Ringling Bros. circus has been sued by two animal protection organizations for conducting illegal spying operations.To settle one case out of court, Ringling Bros. agreed to turn over custody of older animals.
Ringling Brothers Circus failed to protect a 4-year old Bengal tiger from being shot to death while he was in his cage; killed a 3-year old elephant through neglect and tried to hide the body; forcibly separated two baby elephants from their mothers by dragging the babies away with rope, resulting in rope burn wounds on the rear legs of the babies; overworked a 15-year old horse to the point of exhaustion and death; drowned a 4-year old elephant; tried to cover-up the death of a 2-year-old lion that dehydrated in a circus train that was traveling with no water break across California’s Mojave Desert on an overly hot day; euthanized an 8-month old elephant who fell from a pedestal breaking his legs that were bound together during training; caused a wild caught sea lion to die in her transport container, and failed to provide adequate ventilation for their tigers resulting in one tiger injuring his eye and breaking his tooth as he attempted to tear open a cage door and escape from the dangerously high temperatures of the trailer.
But the crimes that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus commits extend beyond nonhuman animals. Ken Feld, CEO of Ringling Brothers Circus has been caught performing illegal wiretaps on the public, hiring ex-CIA people to illegally monitor and interfere in peoples’ lives, manipulating public sentiment against animal protection organizations, and using lobbyists and lawyers to defeat legislation which was designed to protect people from harm. Proof of this information is found in “Smith vs. Feld, civil action case number 98-357-A.
In that document Clair E. George, former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director for covert operations states that “Feld had set up a special unit, much like the Watergate ‘plumbers,’ to destroy anyone who threatened the image of the circus as wholesome fun-for-the-whole-family, conscientious custodian of animals. Feld’s main target was People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).”
PETA had circulated USDA reports that described horrible conditions at Ringling Brothers circus’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Fla. At the Center USDA inspectors found two tightly chained baby elephants with lesions and scars on their legs, evidently caused by constant friction with their restraints. When USDA inspectors asked about the injuries, the elephant handlers told the inspectors that baby elephants were “routinely” chained to forcibly separate them “from their mothers.” The handlers angrily tried to block the inspectors from taking pictures. It was also discovered that about half of the elephants in Ringling Brothers Circus shows in Florida had a form of tuberculosis that was transmittable to human beings.
Not all circuses use animals. Good circuses dazzle their audiences solely with skilled human performers who are so talented at their art that they don’t need to enslave animals. Some animalfree circuses that have grown in popularity include Cirque du Soleil, Circus Smirkus, Circus Chimera, Circus Millennia, Cirque Eloize, Circus Oz, The New Pickle Family Circus, and Bindlestiff Family Circus. These animal-free circuses make it possible for families to have fun without causing animal suffering.
The number of cities and towns that are banning the use of animals in circuses is growing. People in many communities are realizing that wild animals don’t belong in the circus because of harm to the animals and the inherent risk to public safety.
You Can Help
Every individual has the power to limit and even stop the use of animals in circuses. Educate others. Most people would not support the circus if they saw animal trainers beating elephants mercilessly with razor sharp bullhooks behind the scenes or knew that tigers were kept in cages only 4’ x 5’ for the majority of their lives. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors about the cruel treatment animals endure under the big top. Encourage them to join you in taking a stand against animal circuses. You can also write letters to urge industry leaders and circus sponsors to avoid bringing animal circuses into town; ask your town to ban live animal acts; encourage legislators to support legislation to end exotic animal acts; request enforcement of animal welfare regulations; and report any perceived violations of state and local animal protection laws to the police and animal control.
If you are interested in helping to stop animal circuses from coming into Massachusetts please contact the Animal Protection Institute at 1-800- 348-7387, or go to www.api4animals.org or www.morebeautifulwild.com
Four Fast Facts about Animals in the Circus
1. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standards of care set forth in the United States Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
2. Animals born in circus “conservation” breeding programs have never been released into the wild.
3. From 1994 to 2005, at least 31 elephants died premature deaths in the circus.
4. Captive elephant and captive feline attacks on humans in the U.S. have resulted in hundreds of injuries, many resulting in death.
By Jennifer Bates
Boston, Massachusetts. St. Augustine, Florida. Jamestown, Virginia. The events that took place at these sites helped write our country’s history. But now our gluttony could erase them forever.
Our seemingly unquenchable appetite for meat, dairy foods and eggs condemns billions of sentient animals annually to miserable lives in squalid pens and jam-packed cages followed by deaths that are terrifying and painful. But it is also fundamentally altering our landscape. Widespread animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51 percent of the global greenhouse-gas emissions that are heating up the planet at an alarming rate. Warmer air means that glacial ice—and giant hunks of it—could disintegrate in just a few decades. If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts, it could raise sea levels by 12 feet or more, and if that happens, the physical record of our country’s early history along the East Coast will literally wash away.
But our relentless drive for foods made from animals will decimate more than cultural landmarks. The animal-agriculture industry fouls everything that it touches as it oozes across the planet. It churns heavy metals and other poisons into our water and spews toxins such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air. It sickens and chokes human communities unfortunate enough to be in its suffocating shadow and eliminates entire species as it clear-cuts huge swaths of forest.
What will future generations think of us when they learn that they can’t explore Boston or see a glacier up close because our generation valued the pleasure of the palate over the environment and its diverse life forms? We will lose everything to our expanding waistlines—our clean water and fresh air, our healthy communities and national treasures—if we do not make a change, and soon.
Earth Day is a good time for us to make that change. Every year, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities like composting or choosing to buy locally grown produce. But what if those participants—one-seventh of all humanity—also went vegan? Billions fewer animals would be raised and slaughtered for fleeting meals, and the domino effect would be astounding. The dramatic reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions would slow the rising of oceans. Water previously channeled into factory farms would instead be used for human consumption. Oceanic dead zones—areas where little life can survive, thanks to pollutants from farm runoff—could begin to rebound, as could ecosystems damaged by rampant overfishing.
Fewer animals would also mean more crops for human consumption. As things stand now, we grow enough food for every human on the planet. But much of what we grow is diverted into feed for cows, chickens and other animals so that the populations of rich countries can eat animal flesh and eggs and drink animal milk—an inefficient system that is as unjust to the world’s poor as it is cruel to animals.
So on this Earth Day, don’t settle for small actions. Make the choice that will help preserve humanity’s past, protect its present and ensure its future: Go vegan.