By Ingrid Newkirk
What circuses such as Ringling Bros. have told the public for years about the way they train elephants is a lie. And PETA can prove it! Sam Haddock, a former elephant trainer who worked for Ringling, provided PETA with exclusive photos of the secret, violent, and cruel training methods that Ringling has used on helpless baby elephants. These photographs are shocking, and they fly in the face of all the false claims that Ringling has made to the media and the public about its training and care of elephants. Now, armed with this explosive new evidence, we need to turn up the heat in order to end Ringling’s cruel circus acts and free these wonderful animals from their involuntary and miserable lives of servitude.
Ringling’s treatment of baby elephants is even more shocking when you compare these animals’ lives as unwilling props to the full and rich lives of elephant babies in the wild.
Elephants can walk up to 30 miles with their families every day in their native habitats. They are highly intelligent, loving, and social animals who have a complex system of communication. Led by the oldest female — the matriarch — elephant families enjoy very close bonds. They show deep loyalty and affection and are fiercely protective of their children. What they don’t do is wear clothes, stand on their heads, climb onto tubs, or twirl in circles. That’s because, in the wild, no one beats them or electro-shocks them in order to make them do these nonsensical things over and over and over again.
PETA has long known that the only way that trainers can get such enormous, powerful animals to submit to their commands is by subjecting them to a never-ending regimen of physical and psychological cruelty that is designed to inflict pain and fear. Ringling’s training tools — ropes, chains, bullhooks, and even electric-shock devices — are used to apply force. And it begins when the elephants are only months old — often while they are still nursing.
PETA is working hard to get elephants off the road and to shut down circus acts that use animals. We’re filing formal USDA complaints; reaching out to teachers, principals, and superintendents to urge them never to take field trips to the circus; and running ads and billboards that are seen by millions. We are doing more than any other organization to convince national and local businesses to drop their sponsorship of circuses. Circuses are desperate for this support, and we are cutting it off.
Now that PETA has obtained new, clear, and shocking proof of Ringling’s cruelty, we need to push even harder to end the abuse. At every stop along Ringling’s tour, we need to get this evidence in the hands of the local media, law enforcement authorities, prosecutors, and corporate sponsors. We need to constantly monitor and document Ringling’s treatment of its animals and turn out community activists to show that such blatant cruelty to animals is not welcome in their cities.