Tag Archives: ban bullhooks

When three years feels like an eternity

By Delcianna Winders, Esq.

Feld Entertainment, the private company that owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, recently announced that it plans to phase out its use of elephants in performances by 2018. But why does this billion-dollar behemoth need three years to do what it should do immediately?

A company spokesperson acknowledged that the decision was reached because the public has made it clear that it no longer supports forcing elephants to perform. More and more people have come to learn that in circuses, baby elephants are taken from their mothers, beaten into submission with bullhooks and shackled for the rest of their lives. A bullhook is a heavy baton with a sharp metal tip and hook on the end used to keep captive elephants submissive and afraid. The company’s CEO, Kenneth Feld, admitted that the bullhook bans being passed or considered in cities throughout the country contributed to the decision.

So why force elephants to live in fear of being hit with these weapons and to spend days on end confined to fetid boxcars for another three years? If the company is serious and sincere about evolving, then it should make this change now.

Transported from venue to venue almost year-round, elephants used by circuses spend most of their lives shackled and confined. These animals, who are genetically designed to walk many miles every day, must eat, drink, sleep, defecate and urinate in a world measured in inches. This prolonged chaining is linked to deadly foot disorders, arthritis and “stereotypic” (neurotic) behavior, such as constant swaying.

At least 11 elephants with Ringling have tested positive for tuberculosis (TB)—and that’s no laughing matter. TB can be deadly and is highly transmissible from elephants to humans, even without direct contact.

According to Kenneth Vail, the Animal Welfare Act compliance officer for Feld Entertainment, TB is “probably going to be the downfall of Feld’s elephants.”

Many elephants did not live long enough to benefit from Ringling’s change of heart. It’s too late for an 8-month-old baby elephant named Riccardo, who was destroyed after he fractured his hind legs when he fell from a pedestal during a training session; 4-year-old Benjamin, who drowned while being pursued by a handler with a bullhook; and 3-year-old Kenny (Kenneth Feld’s namesake), who died shortly after he was forced to go on stage despite the fact that he was bleeding from his rectum and having difficulty standing.

While Ringling’s decision will provide some relief to elephants forced to perform, let’s not forget that at its Florida compound, elephants are shackled and handled with bullhooks, so a serene retirement does not await them. They are also used as breeding machines, even though captive elephants are dying at a faster rate than they are breeding. Ringling has failed to make any meaningful contribution to the protection of wild Asian elephant habitat and has been unabashedly uninterested in furthering conservation of wild elephant populations. When asked why it doesn’t redirect its efforts from captive breeding to wild habitat conservation, Ringling’s national media representative responded, “Habitat is another thing. We’re not a conservation organization.”

Instead of breeding more elephants who will spend their lives in chains and in forced breeding regimens, Feld Entertainment could transform its Florida facility into a genuine sanctuary—modeled after the successful examples of California’s PAWS and Tennessee’s The Elephant Sanctuary—where elephants could form social groups of their own choosing, swim in ponds and roam over large areas to forage and explore.

Feld Entertainment is on the cusp of a new business model. The company just needs to go further—and faster.

Delcianna Winders is deputy general counsel for the PETA Foundation. Please check our ICT circus FB page, run by Deb Young, on this website (click on text by baby elephant) for updates on elephants and other wild animals in traveling shows and roadside zoos. Thank you!

Ringling Bros circus heads to Worcester. BOYCOTT it!

The Telegram and Gazette has it wrong! … PLEASE!  Never go to circuses that feature wild animals like elephants, tigers, lions, bears and chimps! … This article gets us all thinking …    – R. Tirella

The tragedy of Tyke continues

By Jennifer O’Connor

It’s human nature to recall in vivid detail what you were doing when shocking news broke. I was at my kitchen sink, with a small television on the counter broadcasting the news, when the story broke that Tyke, an elephant used in a traveling circus, had been gunned down on the streets of Honolulu. A full glass of water shattered on my floor as I watched the video footage in horror. It was August 20, 1994.

Police pumped 86 bullets into Tyke. This screaming elephant, covered with blood, her eyes the size of dinner plates, died in abject terror and agonizing pain. Why?

After years of chains and beatings, Tyke had snapped.

She crushed her trainer and escaped the arena into the streets of downtown Honolulu, where she charged pedestrians and smashed vehicles before finally being killed.

As devastating as her death was, there’s at least comfort in knowing that her suffering is over. The same cannot be said of the dozens of other elephants who are still being used and abused in circuses two decades after Tyke’s death.

Despite the vast amount of empirical evidence of elephants’ intelligence and emotional complexity uncovered in the last 20 years, circuses still exploit these animals as if they were nothing more than wind-up toys. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus forcibly removes baby elephants from their frantic mothers, ties them down with ropes by all four legs, threatens them with bullhooks and shocks them with electric prods to break their spirits and make them perform tricks.

Conditioned from infancy to obey commands or face the painful consequences, these dejected youngsters go through their days with no hope, no relief and no joy.

Elephants would never perform grotesquely atypical types of behavior such as headstands on command without the constant threat of punishment.

Elephants who have been captured from Asia and Africa are not uncommon here in the U.S. About half of the elephants used by Ringling, for example, were snatched from the wild and will never set foot in it again.

 Elephants truly never do forget. Their memories are extraordinary.

Elephants who were torn away from their homes and families must spend the interminable hours during which they plod in circles giving rides, pace back and forth in zoo displays or perform in circus shows dreaming of the vast savannas and lush jungles left behind.

But they will never again experience the culture and challenges of their rightful homelands. Their lives consist of loneliness and pain, bullhooks and chains.

And being born in captivity doesn’t fool elephants into believing that that’s where they belong — they know they’re missing everything that’s critical to who they are. Genetic imperatives don’t disappear just because an animal isn’t where he or she is supposed to be.

Nearly all captive elephants develop neurotic behavior, such as constantly swaying or bobbing their heads in a futile attempt to cope.

Instead of walking many miles every day, seeking out friends and visiting favorite watering holes, elephants in circuses are chained by the leg, barely able to take a single step forward or back. Most die far short of their expected life spans.

Those who want to pay homage to Tyke and all the elephants who have suffered and died in captivity will continue to turn their backs on animal circuses and other elephant exploiters.

Time to ban barbaric tools of the circus trade

By Debbie Leahy

The recent death of an animal groom at a Shrine-sponsored circus in Pennsylvania is a tragic end to an already tragic situation. Elephants have been beaten, battered and broken by the circus industry. Is it any wonder they snap from the stress?

Bullhooks look like a fireplace poker—they are batons with a sharp metal hook on the end. They are the standard tool that circuses use to break and manage elephants. These ugly devices are designed to cause pain and can rip and tear skin and leave bloody wounds.

Longtime elephant trainer Tim Frisco was caught on videotape viciously attacking terrified elephants with bullhooks and electric prods during an elephant training seminar. Frisco instructs other trainers to hurt the elephants until they scream and to sink the bullhook into their flesh and twist it. He also cautions that the beatings must be concealed from the public. The elephant who killed the groom in Pennsylvania is believed to belong to Terry Frisco, Tim Frisco’s brother. Continue reading Time to ban barbaric tools of the circus trade