Summer is here, and every single day, countless moms and dads make decisions that can actually cause their children to get hurt — or worse. I’m not talking about letting them ride skateboards without kneepads or play ball in the street. I’m talking about the risks involved every time a family visits a petting farm, takes an elephant ride or stops at a roadside zoo.
A trip to a petting zoo can result in a trip to the emergency room. Whether they are set up in a mall parking lot or on the midway of a county fair, petting zoos are hotbeds of E. coli bacteria, and numerous children have been infected after visiting such displays. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and fever. It can even be fatal.
In 2015, a toddler died after falling ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome just days after visiting a petting zoo at a Maine fair. This little boy wasn’t the first child to die from an illness acquired at these events, and countless others have suffered from serious health problems, including kidney failure.
Children and adults alike have contracted E. coli after petting animals or simply touching the areas around an exhibition. The bacteria have been found on railings and bleachers and even in sawdust. Yet parents still encourage their little ones to pet the animals.
Roadside zoos aren’t any better. They are little more than backyard menageries or dilapidated facilities where animals are typically kept in barren cages constructed from chain-link or wire fencing. Many enclosures look as if they haven’t been upgraded in decades.
Some of these zoos even dupe visitors into believing that they rescue animals by calling themselves “sanctuaries.” But no legitimate sanctuary offers elephant rides or photo ops with tiger or bear cubs, as many roadside and traveling zoos do.
Two visitors to an Indiana roadside zoo, including a young girl, were bitten by tiger cubs in at least two separate incidents during public interactions. A 4-year-old Florida girl sustained severe cuts to her head, and her ear was partially severed by a cougar at a children’s birthday party. And 14 students were bitten by a 3-month-old bear cub in a petting zoo at Washington University in St. Louis.
Profit-hungry exhibitors might be able to deceive parents into believing that interactions with little cubs are safe, but it’s genuinely baffling that parents would think it’s OK to allow their children to ride on top of the world’s largest land animal — the elephant.
When a captive elephant goes rogue — and they often do — chaos ensues. At least 15 children were injured when an elephant being used for rides at a Shrine circus in Indiana was startled, then stumbled and knocked over the scaffolding stairway leading to the ride. While carrying children on her back at a state fair, an elephant with the R.W. Commerford & Sons petting zoo panicked, throwing a 3-year-old girl to the ground.
At a Shrine circus in Missouri, three elephants escaped from their handlers near the children’s rides and were on the loose for about 45 minutes.
With so many other fun summer activities to choose from, why put your family (and animals) at risk? National Parks are treasures within reach. Interactive virtual reality displays at natural history museums appeal to a generation that grew up with technology. IMAX theater documentaries can open up a whole new world to the viewer. We can’t protect our children from all of life’s dangers, but when it comes to deciding on family outings, the kinder choices are also the safer ones.
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.
The Worcester Animal Rescue League on Holden Street is where Rose got her Husky-Mountain Feist cross “Jett,” the late great Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever “Bailey” and beautiful brindle greyhound-lab cross “Grace.” All homeless dogs that needed to be rescued!
If you can’t adopt a homeless cat or dog – do the next best thing: VOLUNTEER on behalf of animals. There are infinite ways to help! A good place to start is WARL (open to the public 7 days a week, noon to 4 p.m.)! To learn more and see their dogs and cats up for adoption, CLICK HERE! – R.T.
Lots happened in 2016 besides the election
By Jennifer O’Connor
Most Americans are still feeling a bit frayed by the divisiveness of the presidential election. It’s easy to feel jaded and worn out, and many commentators are happy to see the end of 2016.
But while it was easy to get caught up in the more lurid headlines, a ton of uplifting things happened in the past year, particularly for animals used in the entertainment industry.
Let’s begin with elephants. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which has been forcing elephants to travel and perform for more than a century, pulled the animals off the road in May. They will no longer be chained up and hauled around in fetid boxcars. When a circus as big as Ringling makes a decision like that, you know the days of performing elephants are numbered.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore also made a precedent-setting decision: It will send the eight dolphins currently in its possession to a coastal sanctuary. Animal advocates around the world have called on aquariums and theme parks to stop exhibiting marine mammals—and this is the first step. Protected sea pools afford dolphins and orcas room to move around and some degree of autonomy and self-determination. They’re able to see, sense and communicate with their wild cousins and other ocean animals — and they finally get to feel the tides and waves and have the opportunity to engage in the kinds of behavior that they’ve long been denied.
SeaWorld is starting to see the writing on the wall. In May, the corporation announced that it would stop breeding future generations of orcas, who would have to spend their lives in cramped tanks. But kind people everywhere are calling on the corporation to release all its animals into coastal sanctuaries. As the public’s condemnation of captive marine mammal displays continues to grow, there’s little doubt that protected sea pens are the wave of the future.
Travel giant TripAdvisor recognized the trend towards compassionate tourism and stopped selling tickets to most excursions using animals for entertainment, including cruel “swim with dolphins” programs, elephant rides and tiger photo ops. Since many facilities dupe visitors into believing that they’re helping animals, many vacationers unwittingly support cruelty by patronizing them. But by informing travelers about the dark underside of these excursions and refusing to offer them, TripAdvisor’s new policy will have a very real impact on animal exploitation in tourist traps.
Nearly a half-dozen roadside zoos — where animals suffered in filthy, ramshackle cages — closed their doors in 2016. Families are turning their backs on exhibits in which bears are confined to concrete pits and tigers pace in fetid pens.
But progress for animals hasn’t been limited to the U.S. In Argentina, a judge found that Cecilia, a chimpanzee languishing in a Mendoza zoo, isn’t a “thing” but rather a sentient being who is “subject to nonhuman rights” — and ordered that she be sent to a sanctuary. Countries as disparate as Norway and Iran banned exotic-animal acts.
Argentina passed a ban on greyhound racing, sparing countless dogs a short, grim life in the “sport.” India’s Supreme Court upheld a ban on a cruel pastime called jallikattu—in which bullocks are raced and often struck with whips and nail-studded sticks to make them run faster. And the annual Toro de la Vega “festival” — in which a young bull is chased through the streets of Tordesillas, Spain, and stabbed with darts and spears — was banned.
While 2016 was a good year for animals, there’s always more to be done. We all have the power to spare animals pain and suffering in the year ahead—and beyond—simply by making kind choices about what we do for entertainment.
What do elephants have to do with 16th century medieval reenactments? Not a thing. Yet, at Renaissance festivals across the country, they are forced to plod in endless circles, day after day, giving rides to paying customers.
When used on the fair circuit, elephants are chained inside tractor trailers and hauled from one venue to the next. They are trained through domination and punishment and live in fear of the bullhook—a long, heavy baton with a steel point and hook at one end that handlers use to strike and jab them in the most sensitive parts of their bodies. They learn to obey or get whacked.
Thanks to decades of field research, we know that elephants are highly social animals who live in matriarchal herds, protect and help one another, forage for fresh vegetation, play, bathe in rivers and share maternal responsibility for the herd’s babies. Every milestone, such as a new birth or the rainy season, is cause for celebration. They gather to grieve when there is a death in the family and have been known to visit relatives’ graves years after they have died.
In the wild, they are active for 18 hours a day, walking up to 30 miles. This freedom of movement and social engagement are essential to maintaining their physical and psychological well-being. Elephants are exceedingly intelligent and need to use their brain power in multifaceted ways in order to remain engaged and healthy.
But in captivity, elephants’ complex emotional relationships are left in tatters. They spend their days swaying like mindless automatons to try to cope with the stress. Most develop painful and debilitating joint and foot problems and die decades short of their expected life spans.
And it’s not just elephants who suffer at these festivals. Some of them also offer camel rides and even put caged tigers on display—as if either had any connection to a medieval theme. In the desert where they belong, camels live in social herds and spend their days roaming and foraging. When they meet, they often blow on each other in greeting. Mother camels are devoted to their babies, and they hum to one another.
Lions and tigers shun contact with humans, yet when they are dragged around to be put on display at Renaissance fairs, they have no way of escaping the noisy, raucous crowds. Legally, these apex predators are permitted to be housed in cages in which they can barely move. The federal Animal Welfare Act requires only that a cage be “large” enough to provide for “normal postural and social adjustments.” In other words, if an animal can stand up, lie down, turn around and move a bit, that’s enough. That’s all that’s required, and in many cases, that’s all that’s provided.
Traveling from state to state, animals may spend days locked up in sweltering tractor trailers. Elephants are chained so tightly that they can barely move. Their world becomes a fetid stew of their own waste. Every interminable day is the same as the last. There’s no meaning, no fulfillment, no comfort, no joy.
Renaissance fairs have an abundance of entertainment options to offer their guests. But elephant and camel rides and exotic animal displays, which harm animals and have nothing to do with the history or the fantasy of medieval lore, have no business there. It’s time to relegate cruel animal shows to the Dark Ages.
For many people planning overseas vacations, the exotic lure of India beckons. From the great Ganges River and the beaches of Goa to the iconic Taj Mahal and the towering Himalayas, the south Asian country holds an irresistible appeal. But beware: Almost as soon as a tourist sets foot in India, an enslaved elephant is offered for “entertainment.”
Elephants in India are forced to work under a variety of unnatural conditions, from festivals and temples to tourist rides. Those used in cities spend the entire day—and much of the night—walking on scorching-hot, pothole-ridden roads, breathing in exhaust fumes and “begging” for food in return for “blessings.” They’re often crippled with painful foot and toenail disease, sleep-deprived, malnourished and denied everything that makes an elephant’s life worthwhile: social interactions with their families, swimming and making choices about their daily lives.
My visit to one of India’s top tourist destinations, the Amer Fort in Jaipur, was particularly disheartening. About 100 elephants there are forced to carry tourists back and forth from the entrance to the main gate. The elephants’ mahouts (handlers) carry sticks to jab them with to ensure that they obey. As a veterinarian, I observed that many of the elephants being used to ferry tourists back and forth to the Amer Fort were suffering from serious, even life-threatening, foot disease. Many were also visually impaired. Some elephants had holes punched in their sensitive ears and drilled into their tusks just so that the mahouts could hang decorative ribbons from them. Captive elephants like these are often forced to work for long periods without adequate time to rest and recuperate.
The suffering begins almost from the day they are born. Often when they are just 2 years old, baby elephants are torn away from their mothers’ tender care and either tied up between trees with heavy chains and ropes, which cause painful abrasions, or confined to a tiny wooden enclosure called a kraal. Trainers then beat them with sticks and jab them with ankuses until their spirits are utterly broken. Shockingly, this torture can go on for months.
When elephants are not being forced to work, they are often chained to concrete stalls for hours on end so that they’re unable to move more than a step in any direction and forced to stand in their own excrement. They are rarely provided with adequate veterinary care and can suffer from tuberculosis, which can be transmitted to humans; skin ailments; eye infections; cataracts; and crippling arthritis and foot disease. Their quality of life is abysmal. When denied everything that gives their lives meaning, they become profoundly depressed. Many of them rock and sway constantly, a symptom of mental illness, and lash out at their mahouts and others around them.
Elephants are highly social animals who lavish affection and attention on their family members. In the wild, each day is filled with socializing, exploring, playing and participating in other group activities. Births are cause for celebration, and deaths of loved ones are mourned. Scientists have documented the depth and reach of elephants’ intelligence and emotional range. They are self-aware and empathetic, they plan ahead and they enjoy a social life as rich and complex as our own.
In captivity, these social and emotional bonds are destroyed.
Elephants in India endure this torment because tourists don’t realize that when they take elephant rides or participate in other forms of entertainment that uses elephants, they are directly supporting it. If you’re planning a trip to India, enjoy all that India has to offer, but please don’t support cruelty to elephants.
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.
‘TIGER’ AND ‘ELEPHANT’ TO DEMAND RETIREMENT AT RINGLING’S OPENING NIGHT
Protesters to Call for Releasing All Wild Animals to Sanctuaries Now
What: TOMORROW, Friday, PETA supporters in tiger and elephant costumes will converge on the opening night of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Worcester.
The protesters will display a bullhook—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end, which the circus uses to beat elephants into submission — and call for the lions, tigers, elephants, and other animals forced to perform in Ringling’s shows to be immediately retired to accredited sanctuaries.
“Chains, cages, whips, and bullhooks are the tools of Ringling’s trade,” says PETA Foundation Captive Law Enforcement Counsel Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on everyone to stay away from Ringling Bros. until the circus takes elephants, tigers, lions, and all other exotic animals off the road and retires them to accredited sanctuaries.”
In their natural habitats, big cats roam vast territories, but in circuses, they are carted from arena to arena in cages so small that they can barely turn around. During performances, the threat of violence forces them to do physically challenging stunts, such as walking on their hind legs.
And while Ringling has pledged to phase out its elephant acts by May, a new report prepared by PETA — whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” — reveals that elephants at the circus’s “retirement” facility are not only still chained and abused with bullhooks but also at risk of contracting deadly tuberculosis.
Where: DCU Center, at the intersection of Foster Street and Major Taylor Boulevard, Worcester
When: TOMORROW, Friday, April 22, 6 p.m.
For more information, please visit PETA’s website RinglingBeatsAnimals.com.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is bringing its elephant act to Worcester for the last time, but many people are asking what will happen once the elephants “retire” to Ringling’s Florida training facility.
A new PETA report reveals that elephants kept at the facility, which the circus calls the “Center for Elephant Conservation,” are separated from their mothers shortly after birth, chained for more than 16 hours each day on concrete, and beaten with bullhooks—weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end. The report also calls the facility “a hotbed of tuberculosis.”
PETA — whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way” — is calling on Ringling to retire all animals held by the circus without delay and send the elephants to an accredited sanctuary where they’d have acres to roam, freedom from physical abuse, and the opportunity to socialize with other elephants.
“PETA’s report reveals that Ringling Bros. plans to continue using and abusing elephants by keeping them chained, jabbing them with bullhooks, and depriving them of everything that’s natural and important to them—such as freedom of movement and maintaining contact with their babies,” says PETA Foundation Captive Animal Law Enforcement Counsel Rachel Mathews. “If this circus cared one whisker for animals’ welfare, it would send these elephants to an accredited sanctuary where they’d be cared for, not exploited as moneymakers.”
In the face of growing public condemnation, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has finally conceded: It’s eliminating elephant acts this May instead of next year, bringing the lame and ailing animals some measure of relief from their days on end chained in stifling, reeking boxcars. But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.
Despite Ringling’s spin on what comes next, the circus’s Florida breeding compound — where the elephants will be sent — has its own fundamental flaws. At the grandiosely named Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC), elephants are still chained on a daily basis, forced to breed (although no elephant born there will ever set foot in the wild), deprived of opportunities to interact and socialize normally, and continue to live in fear of being whacked with a bullhook or shocked with an electric prod.
According to the sworn testimony of the general manager of the CEC, some elephants at the facility are routinely chained on concrete floors for up to 23 hours a day.
They are typically chained by two legs—one hind leg and one foreleg—which prevents them from taking more than a step or two in any direction.
These keenly social animals, who need contact and interaction with other elephants, have little opportunity to engage in the activities that give their lives meaning. The general manager also testified that pregnant elephants at the CEC are chained by two or three legs for at least two weeks prior to their due dates.
During a court-ordered inspection of the CEC, an elephant-care specialist observed that elephants spent so much time chained that they had worn grooves into the concrete floor.
Chaining on hard surfaces makes elephants prone to arthritis, infection and psychological stress and can ultimately lead to premature death.
Chained elephants often sway back and forth like manic metronomes and repeatedly shift their weight from one foot to another in a desperate attempt to cope.
In another chilling revelation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the CEC is awash in tuberculosis (TB), calling it “[t]he facility with the highest incidence of TB in their elephants,” and as a result, the CEC has been the subject of a series of government-mandated quarantines.
TB is highly transmissible from elephants to humans, even without direct contact. Just last month, two Ringling workers were barred from performing in Indianapolis after testing positive for possible TB. Seven employees at the Oregon Zoo contracted TB from three elephants in their care in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CEC’s goal is to try to ensure a steady supply of captive elephants for circuses and now, more recently, zoos.
CEC veterinarian Dr. Dennis Schmitt admitted under oath that the CEC has no intention of introducing elephants into the wild. And Ringling recklessly breeds elephants years before they are mature. Wild Asian elephants don’t normally have their first calves until they are 18 to 20 years old. But Shirley, for example, gave birth to her first calf at the CEC when she was just 8 years old, followed by two more at ages 11 and 17. At least four baby elephants born at the CEC have died.
Elephants who have endured years of suffering while earning Ringling millions of dollars deserve better—including rehabilitation for both their physical and their psychological troubles.
This will not happen at the CEC.
It could happen at the two accredited elephant sanctuaries in the U.S., the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. That’s where these elephants belong.
PETA is calling on Indianapolis and federal officials to bar Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from forcing lame elephants Mable and Assan to perform this weekend. Recent footage shows the two elephants being forced to do tricks even though they appear to be in pain. PETA gave the footage to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Indianapolis Animal Care & Control and asked both to investigate and intervene.
PETA is especially concerned about Assan, who has been showing signs of severe arthritis for years, because the circus continues to use her in performances. Even Ringling’s own veterinarian recently admitted that Assan has circulatory issues caused by the circus’s transport conditions. And earlier this year, an elephant expert found that both animals had cracked toenails, which can be debilitating.
Ringling hauls elephants around the country for up to 50 weeks a year—confined to tiny boxcars, chained on hard surfaces, and forced to stand amid their own waste. These harsh conditions are known to cause arthritis and painful, chronic foot problems, both of which are often a death sentence for elephants.