Tag Archives: exotic animal acts

As Ringling Bros. Heads to Worcester, PETA Releases Exposé of Circus’s Elephant-Breeding Compound

By David Perle

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.”

For more information, CLICK HERE

Worcester’s DCU center and animal cruelty

January 29, 2015


It’s a shame that organizers of the Kids Fun Fair and Zoo [at the DCU center] are offering camel and elephant rides.  Such cruel animal exploitation should be condemned, not condoned.

Elephants forced to give rides are controlled through fear.

Elephants obey or know they will be hit with bullhooks, heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on the end – picture getting whacked with a fireplace poker.

Handlers strike elephants on the most sensitive parts of their bodies – behind the ears, their face and feet.

If we look at what life on the road means to elephants compared to their place in nature, we can see how far we have degraded these complex and keenly intelligent animals.

There is nothing more important to an elephant than family. Births are joyous celebrations; deaths of loved ones are mourned. Youngsters are nurtured in close-knit family units in which aunts babysit, grandmothers teach youngsters life skills such as how to use different kinds of leaves and mud to ward off sunburn, and siblings roughhouse and play.

Elephants have the largest brains of any mammal on Earth and think, plan and remember. Elephants truly never do forget; their memories are extraordinary.

Young camels used to provide rides are often ripped from their nurturing mothers when they are only days old so they can get “used to” public contact.

Camels are naturally free-roaming animals and fare very poorly when kept continuously in transport trailers and small pens. They can be skittish and unpredictable.

Both Bactrian and Dromedary camels have a poor tolerance for rough handling. This presents a potentially hazardous situation for both the riders and the animals.

Please think about the poor quality of life for these animals, who are hauled around in trucks and forced to plod in endless circles all day long.

There’s little respite between events, and when not working, they spend their lives in cages and chains.

Renting animals out for rides does nothing to foster respect. Children learn that animals can be exploited for their fleeting distraction and amusement.

The Kids Fun Fair and Zoo should stop supporting cruel animal displays.

Yours truly,

Jennifer O’Connor
Senior Writer
PETA Foundation
501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510

From the editor:

PLEASE BOYCOTT THIS DCU EVENT! Exotic animals NEVER BELONG IN TRAVELING “SHOWS”!   To be EXPLOITED, WHIPPED, HAVE THEIR SKIN TORN BY BULLHOOKS! Please!  Don’t take your kids to this “fun” event.      – R. Tirella

England has banned exotic animals from circuses!

From the EXPRESS. To read entire story, click on the InCity Times circus Facebook page, to the right … – R. T.

AT LAST! Ban on ALL wild animals in circuses is passed

The RSPCA has said it is very relieved the Government has finally confirmed it will ban ALL wild animals in circuses.

By Stuart Winter

There was a fear that only big cats and elephants would be banned

There was a fear that only big cats and elephants would be banned [PA]

There were fears that only big cats and elephants would be banned from travelling circuses after MPs’ recommendations early this summer.

But now there has been confirmation from  Government ministers that a ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses in England will go ahead by the end of 2015.

Many leading charities and animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA, Born Free Foundation, the British Veterinary Association and the Captive Animals’ Protection Society have campaigned together against wild animals being used in circuses.

The RSPCA has been particularly outspoken, warning that wild animals are likely to suffer from being dragged around the country from pillar to post just so audiences can be “entertained.

RSPCA senior scientist Dr Ros Clubb said: “It is a great relief that the Government has listened to reason and we are back on track to getting a proper ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses.

“As the Government has pointed out, there is absolutely no basis for protecting only a select group of wild animals, and no desire to do so from MPs, the public or animal welfare groups. No wild animals belong in a circus.

“Now we need to leap over the final hurdle and get a definite date for this legislation to be passed and end this outdated practise.

“Animals have already been waiting too long and another two years is still a long time to endure the constant travel, cramped temporary cages, and noisy conditions of a circus. The licensing scheme that is running in the meantime is not good enough to safeguard the welfare of these majestic animals.”

The RSPCA and Born Free Foundation have offered to help Defra and circus owners re-home the wild animals currently being used in circuses. …

To read more, click on the InCity Times circus Facebook page to the right, above, under the tethered elephant!


Why can’t we read something like this in the T & G …

… instead of the garbage we’ve seen on the circus? This is why we can never be great! A profound lack of brains and heart, re: circuses. – R.T.

From the LA TIMES:

No more curtain calls for elephants


They are majestic animals, not performers. The City Council should act to protect them.

The Los Angeles City Council is poised to consider a measure that would in effect prevent elephants from performing in traveling shows and exhibitions in the city. It’s hardly unusual for the council to sound off on any issue under the sun, but in this case, the proposal before it underscores a growing appreciation for the world’s largest and most majestic land mammal. It deserves to be approved, and should prompt serious reflection on humanity’s relationship with these noble animals.

In the wilds of Asia and Africa, elephants roam miles a day, foraging for vegetation, socializing in groups, gamboling over varied topography — dirt, grass, hills, rocks — and wallowing in mud holes. Until recently, nothing about that natural existence was approximated in zoos. When they weren’t on display in cramped exhibits, they were chained in zoo barns, standing on concrete or other hard surfaces. For 8,000-to-10,000-pound creatures who spend all day on their feet and can live into their 40s, the consequence of that confinement was a painful middle age, marked by arthritis, cracked toenails and sore feet.

Zookeepers entered elephants’ enclosures and maintained control over the animals with the bullhook. With one blunt end and a sharp hook on the other, it resembles a hammer. Keepers used it to poke, prod or strike.

Since the 1990s, as zoos and veterinarians started to understand the severity of elephant foot diseases, conditions began to improve. Zoos stopped chaining their elephants at night. Exhibits got bigger and surfaces for treading got softer. The Los Angeles Zoo spent more than $40 million building a new habitat, trying to offer, in several acres, some of what elephants might find in the wild — dirt, grass, hills, logs, a waterfall— as well as features they wouldn’t find, such as a barn with heated floors.

Today at the L.A. Zoo, the bullhook has been banished and keepers practice “protected contact” with elephants, meaning that man and pachyderm rarely share the same space. This protects keepers and animals and eliminates the need for the former to threaten the latter with a sharp-edged tool. The Assn. of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits North American zoos, has instructed all of its member facilities to adopt, by 2014, the practice of keepers not sharing “unrestricted space” with elephants.

What has been slower to change is the common perception of elephants and how they interact with human civilization. That concept is tangled in a history of pachyderms depicted as brave warriors in battle, stately beasts of burden and hardy workers, hauling lumber in Asia, ferrying tourists in Thailand and carrying visitors at county fairs in the United States.

But elephants are not horses. Although some argue that they have become domestic animals, they are not domesticated in the technical sense of having been bred by humans for selective gene traits. At best (or worst), many have been tamed for human handling. But “taming” is not gentle; it requires chaining and the bullhook, and comes at the expense of an elephant’s well-being. Whether the animal is trained to entertain or to drag logs through a jungle, it is taught by force.

Using elephants to perform in circuses and give rides at county fairs may seem more benign than using them to labor in Asian logging facilities, but it relies on much of the same coercion. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has long defended its use of elephants, saying they are meticulously cared for on the road and at its conservation center in Florida. But Ringling still chains its elephants in trains to transport them and uses bullhooks to manage them, according to reports by the L.A. Department of Animal Services and a veterinarian assigned by the department to examine the animals. That’s why a City Council committee is recommending a prohibition on public elephant performances and bullhooks.

Elephants have been part of human history for thousands of years, and their image as gentle giants endures. But their interaction with humans has often been characterized by their mistreatment. With greater understanding has come new responsibility to treat elephants with the dignity they deserve and have too often been denied.


We are asking all Worcester city councilors to not respond to Ringling Bros.’s invitation to …

… attend their open house. They are here! BOYCOTT Ringling! No validation from city leaders – cheap FREE publicity for Ringling!

We know it is an election year but, please, city councilors let Ringling know wild animals have no business being in a circus or any traveling show! In Worcester or anywhere in America! – R. Tirella


Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is coming to our town, yet again! What a shame!

By Deb Young

Now and until early next year, trucks or train box cars filled with chained Barnum & Bailey Circus animal “performers” are rolling into cities across the country.

Should parents take their children to the circus?

While going to the circus may be a favorite pastime for many adults, animal abuse allegations have led many parents to squirm at the thought of taking their children.

Although some children dream of running away to join the circus, it is a safe bet that most animals forced to perform in circuses dream of running away from the circus.

In contrast to the glitter associated with circuses, performing animals’ lives are pretty miserable.

When the elephants, monkeys, big cats, and other circus animals aren’t imprisoned in trucks and trains for upwards of 26 hours at a time, these members of the animal kingdom are doing the tricks taught by torture. “Torture’ isn’t hyperbole – it’s the truest word for the electric shocks, beatings, and lifetimes of pervasive neglect exhaustively documented by reports,investigations, photos, videos and personal accounts.

Bears, elephants, tigers, and other animals do not voluntarily ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. They don’t perform these and other difficult tricks because they want to; they perform them because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t.

For animals in circuses, there is no such thing as “positive reinforcement”—only varying degrees of punishment and deprivation. To force them to perform these meaningless and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

In the Ringling Bros. circus, elephants are beaten, hit, poked, prodded, and jabbed with sharp hooks, sometimes until bloody. Ringling breaks the spirit of elephants when they’re vulnerable babies who should still be with their mothers. Unsuspecting parents planning a family trip to the circus don’t know about the violent training sessions with ropes, bullhooks, and electric shock prods that elephants endure. Heartbreaking photos reveal how Ringling Bros. circus trainers cruelly force baby elephants to learn tricks, and it’s not through a reward system, as they claim.

Former Ringling Bros. employees have reported that elephants are routinely abused and violently beaten with bullhooks. Archele Hundley, who was an animal trainer with Ringling Bros., says that she worked with the company for three months and quit after she allegedly saw a handler ram a bullhook into an elephant’s ear for refusing to lie down. Ringling Bros. “believes that if they can keep these animals afraid, they can keep them submissive,” Hundley said. “This is how they train their employees to handle these animals.”

Circuses easily get away with routine abuse because no government agency monitors training sessions. Undercover video footage of animal training sessions has shown that elephants are beaten with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods, big cats are dragged by heavy chains around their necks and hit with sticks, bears are whacked and prodded with long poles, and chimpanzees are kicked and hit with riding crops.Trainers drug some animals to make them “manageable” and surgically remove the teeth and claws of others.

Constant travel means that animals are confined to boxcars, trailers, or trucks for days at a time in extremely hot and cold weather, often without access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. Elephants, big cats, bears, and primates are confined to cramped and filthy cages in which they eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate—all in the same place.
Circuses are cruel. Those animals are on the road constantly, living in tiny cages, and whipped into submission. It sends a terrible message to our children. Elephants and tigers are in peril worldwide and we should be teaching our children to respect these animals, rather than sending them a message that it is OK to “train” these animals to do silly tricks. And animal-free circuses are so much entertaining and higher-minded anyway!

Ringling Bros boasts that its three units travel more than 25,000 miles as the circus tours the country for 11 months each year. Ringling’s own documents reveal that on average, elephants are chained for more than 26 hours straight and are sometimes continually chained for as many as 60 to 100 hours. Tigers and lions usually live and travel in cages that provide barely enough room for the animals to turn around, often with two big cats crammed into a single cage. In July 2004, Clyde, a young lion traveling with Ringling, died in a poorly ventilated boxcar while the circus was crossing the Mojave Desert, where temperatures reached at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Clyde likely died a miserable death from heatstroke and dehydration. Previously, two tigers with Ringling injured themselves while attempting to escape from their cages in an overheated boxcar.

Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild , but when forced to perform for Ringling, they live to be on average , only 39 years old.
Approximately 18 Elephants are suffering on the road with Ringling right now.
21 months old is the average age a baby elephant is taken away from his/her mother and begin cruel training.
Ringlings death toll from 1993 to 2012 was 30 elephants.
Elephants often suffer from large abbesses, tuberculosis,depression and aggression after being denied the opportunity to follow their natural instincts.
Ringling has paid the USDA 270,000 for animal welfare violations, the largest fine ever paid by an animal exhibitor.

During the off-season, animals used in circuses may be housed in traveling crates or barn stalls— some are even kept in trucks. Such interminable confinement has harmful physical and psychological effects on animals. These effects are often indicated by unnatural forms of behavior such as repeated head-bobbing, swaying, and pacing.

These intelligent captive animals sometimes snap under the pressure of constant abuse. Others make their feelings abundantly clear when they get a chance. Flora, an elephant who had been forced to perform in a circus and was later moved to the Miami Zoo, attacked and severely injured a zookeeper in front of visitors. As Florida police officer Blayne Doyle—who shot 47 rounds into Janet, an elephant who ran amok with three children on her back at the Great American Circus in Palm Bay—noted, “I think these elephants are trying to tell us that zoos and circuses are not what God created them for … but we have not been listening.”

In more than 35 dangerous incidents since 2000, elephants have bolted from circuses, run amok through streets, crashed into buildings, attacked members of the public, and killed and injured handlers.

In speaking before members of Congress about the dangers of elephant rampages, Doyle lamented, “I have discovered, much to my alarm, that once an elephant goes out of control, nothing can be done. It is not a predictable or preventable accident. The only thing that can be done—and even this is a danger to the public—is to get a battery of police officers in with heavy weapons and gun the elephant down.”

Here are 11 quick and straight facts about the circus that many don’t know.

1. Circus animals have the right to be protected and treated humanely under the Animal Welfare Act.
2. Tigers naturally fear fire but they are still forced to jump through fire hoops in some circuses.
3. Less than 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are assigned to monitor the 12,000 circus-related facilities in America.
4. Trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade to force animals to perform.
5. In more than 35 dangerous incidents since 2000, elephants have bolted from circuses, run amok through streets, crashed into buildings, attacked members of the public, and killed and injured handlers.
6. 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.
7. On average, circuses travel about 48 weeks per year.
8. Virtually 96 percent of a circus animal’s life is spent in chains or cages.
9. Since 1990, there have been over 123 cases of lion attacks.
10. Repetitive and often destructive behaviors such as obsessive swaying, bobbing, chewing, sucking, weaving, rocking, and licking are common in circus animals, and are manifestations of their extreme stress and boredom.
11. Because of their forced immobility, circus animals may develop arthritis or other joint problems.

What can we do?

When the circus comes to town, organize a demonstration to inform the public that demeaning stunts performed by animals in the ring are the result of behind-the-scenes bullhook beatings and other abusive training methods. Let your local news outlet know about the suffering of animals used in circuses.

Start a campaign to amend the cruelty-to-animals ordinance in our community so that it includes language forbidding the use of bullhooks and other manual, mechanical, and chemical devices intended to cause pain and suffering.

Most importantly, boycott all circuses that use animals.

As more people become aware of the cruelty involved in forcing animals to perform, circuses that use animals are finding fewer places to set up their big tops. The use of animals in entertainment has already been restricted or banned in cities across the U.S. and in countries worldwide.

Circuses that feature only human performers are gaining in popularity and provide dazzling, humane, and truly family-friendly entertainment.
If you don’t find animal cruelty entertaining, or don’t believe seeing elephants doing curtsies teaches kids anything positive, you’re in good – and kind – company.

So why not boycott the big top and celebrate life with animals and fellow animal lovers instead?

InCity Voices: No exotic animal acts, please!

By Marie Carbone

… I … oppose allowing any circus to come to Worcester that includes exotic animal acts.

… for the past 20 plus years I have read reviews and … The research consistently bears out the facts that these animals [elephants, chimps, tigers, lions] are more intelligent than we imagined. Surprisngly, in the case of elephants, we learn that they live in a community, care for each other and even grieve when one of them dies. How horrible to take them from that community and put them in a lonely, stressful environment where they are forced, sometimes cruelly, to perform unnatural acts for our entertainment.

The time has long past when the only glimpse people had of these wonderful exotic creations was when the circus came to town. Now elephants can be seen in many humane zoos and sanctuaries where we can appreciate their beauty in an environment as close to normal as we can provide.

The circus – minus exotic animals – will always have a place in providing entertainment. Who hasn’t laughed at the clowns and been awed by the acrobats and high wire artist? But that should be their total focus. There are circuses that have done this and have been eminently successful.

This is a chance for Worcester to take a stand, lead by example and hope in doing so that other communities will follow and eventually compel all circuses to exclude exotic animal acts from their performances.

Marie Carbone lives in Worcester County and is the loving owner of two very special parrots and two elegant cats.

Here is ICT’s circus Facebook page and a story …

Click here! for the InCity Times circus Facebook page! – R. T.

PLUS: Elephants: broken spirits

Elephants in circuses are denied everything that is natural and important to them. Many elephants become dysfunctional, unhealthy, depressed, and aggressive as a result of the cruel conditions in which they are kept. In the wild, elephants often nurse their babies until 5 years of age, and the babies are raised in a nurturing environment in which they are protected and comforted. Daughters stay with their mothers for life, and sons stay until they reach adolescence.

At some circuses, still-nursing baby elephants (usually 18 to 24 months of age) are captured rodeo-style, roped around all four legs, tethered neck-to-neck to an anchor elephant, and dragged from their mothers. From this point forward, their relationship with their mother is abruptly terminated and every movement, every instinct, and every natural behavior is subject to discipline.

Elephants are so intensely emotional and protective that it is well documented that they experience great sadness over losing their young, and it must horrify them to watch their babies tormented in servitude.

Most elephants used by circuses and zoos were captured in the wild and forced to leave their freedom and families behind. Some people mistakenly believe that captive breeding will help prevent elephants from becoming extinct, but elephants who are born in the breeding centers of circuses and zoos (also known as captive-born elephants) can never be returned to the wild.

Animals used in circuses live a dismal life in which they are dominated, confined, and violently trained. Workers routinely beat, shock, and whip them until they learn to perform meaningless tricks that are confusing to them.

If you love elephants, never go to a circus that uses animal acts.

BREAK THE CHAIN! We ask ALL our wonderful InCity Times readers – paper and website – to PLEASE …

… contact our city councilors to tell them YOU DON’T WANT wild animals – lions, tigers, elephants – coming to town! (THE COUNCILORS’ CONTACT NFO IS AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST!) As part of the Ringling Bros. Circus or little travelling circuses ( a few come into Worcester each year). Tell them NO WAY! Worcester does not need the $$$ – that we have plenty of entertainment in Worcester! Tell them you would gladly attend circuses that don’t use wild animals – circuses such as Cirque De Soleil, The Big Apple Circus, etc.

Tell them alpacas CAN be domesticated and are kept for wool, etc in farms in South America. Alpacas are NOT wild animals  a la lions, tigers, elephants! DO NOT fall for the smoke and mirrors peddled by the conservative rags in town!

Please call or email Mayor Joe Petty and tell him your concerns …


We have the WONDERFUL City Councilors Sarai Rivera, Konnie Lukes, Mike German and Joe O’Brien BEHIND OUR proposal! Call or email them TO THANK THEM FOR THEIR GOOD, GOOD HEARTS AND tell them you will vote for them in November. These pols – three out of the four are youngish (late 30s early 40s)  represent THE YOUTH perspective (Konnie Lukes, a lady who loves animals,  is just way cool!).

These city councilors  see THE FUTURE. REPRESENT THE FUTURE.

Reward them with your vote. AND Let’s get out the youth vote this election!

CLICK HERE for Worcester City Councilors’ addresses, etc.

Thank you!

Rosalie Tirella

All about exotic animals forced to “perform” in circuses …

The Worcester City Council needs more info on exotic animals in circuses before they make a decision to ban exotic animal acts from Woo? Here ya go, kids!

Kudos to councilors Rivera, Germain, O’Brien and Lukes for caring about animals, for being humane. We hope the other councilors see the light and do the right thing. We also hope Mayor Joe Petty follows in the footsteps of former Mayor Joe O’Brien and refuses to get sucked into the cheap publicity stunt Ringling pulls each year: lining all the elephants up at City Hall and feeding them bread from local bakeries or American veggies from the super market. Ringling wants the mayor welcoming the elephants! Instant validation! We are talking WILD ANIMALS FROM AFRICA. THEY BELONG WILD, IN AFRICA.

– R. Tirella

Learn More About Ringling Bros. Cruelty

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is known for its long history of abusing animals. In 1929, John Ringling ordered the execution of a majestic bull elephant named Black Diamond after the elephant killed a woman who had been in the crowd as he was paraded through a Texas city. Twenty men took aim and pumped some 170 bullets into Black Diamond’s body, then chopped off his bullet-ridden head and mounted it for display in Houston, Texas. Ringling’s cruel treatment of animals continues today.

Elephants in Ringling’s possession are chained inside filthy, poorly ventilated boxcars for an average of more than 26 straight hours—and often 60 to 70 hours at a time—when the circus travels. Even former Ringling employees have reported that elephants are routinely abused and violently beaten with bullhooks (an elephant-training tool that resembles a fireplace poker), in order to force them to perform tricks.

Since 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Ringling numerous times for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), such as the following:

  • Improper handling of dangerous animals
  • Failure to provide adequate veterinary care to animals, including an elephant with a large swelling on her leg, a camel with bloody wounds, and a camel injured on train tracks
  • Causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to two elephants who sustained injuries when they ran amok during a performance
  • Endangering tigers who were nearly baked alive in a boxcar because of poor maintenance of their enclosures
  • Failure to test elephants for tuberculosis
  • Unsanitary feeding practices

At least 30 elephants, including four babies, have died since 1992, including an 8-month-old baby elephant named Riccardo who was destroyed after he fractured his hind legs when he fell from a circus pedestal. Elephants are not the only animals with Ringling to suffer tragic deaths. In 2004, a 2-year-old lion died of apparent heatstroke while the circus train crossed the Mojave Desert.

To learn more about Ringling’s lengthy history of abusing animals and deceiving the public, read PETA’s Ringling Bros. factsheet (PDF).


Meet the Elephants

Meet the Elephants

Animals used in circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey live a dismal life in which they are dominated, confined, and violently trained. Workers routinely beat, shock, and whip them until they learn to perform ridiculous tricks that make no sense to them.

Most elephants used by circuses were captured in the wild. Once removed from their families and natural habitat, their lives consist of little more than chains and intimidation. Some baby elephants are born on breeding farms, where they are torn away from their mothers, tethered with ropes, and kept in isolation until they learn to fear their trainers. Throughout their lifetime, all that they will ever know is extreme loneliness and beatings with sharp bullhooks.

Starting with a 2009 investigation, PETA has documented cruelty to more than 20 elephants—ranging in age from just 2 years old to at least 54—who are on the road with Ringling. These sensitive and intelligent animals have spent an average of 30-plus years with the circus, and four elephants have each been in Ringling’s possession for 43 long years.

These are just a few of the elephants who have been forced to perform with the circus in recent years:

Barack is a 2-year-old elephant born at Ringling’s Florida breeding compound. He is forced to endure life on the road with his mother, Bonnie, whose lack of natural, maternal behavior toward Barack has alarmed elephant experts. In early 2010 and again in 2011, Barack was diagnosed with the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a common killer of young, captive-born Asian elephants. EEHV is associated with stress, and symptoms include a pale or bluish tongue, swelling of the head and neck, and lethargy. Death is caused by massive internal hemorrhaging and heart failure. Barack was pulled from the show after his second diagnosis, and Ringling has not spoken publicly of his fate since then.

Nicole is a 34-year-old elephant who looks and acts twice her age, according to experts. Her front legs turn out, her wrists bow, and she has abnormal, swollen lumps on both front legs. Problems with feet and nails are a leading reason for euthanasia of captive elephants; all of Nicole’s foot pads are overgrown and discolored, and she has evidence of abscesses on her nails. She has lameness consistent with arthritis, painful bone bruising, and ligament or tendon damage in her right knee, which manifests as instability on that limb. She grimaces in pain while walking and has difficulty exiting the train cars, scraping her back on the undersized doorway.

Sara is a 9-year-old survivor of the cruel training practices used by Ringling that were brought to light by whistleblower Sam Haddock. She is underweight, as is indicated by her very sunken face and prominent skull bones. Sara has suffered from chronic lameness since early 2009, but Ringling has not conducted adequate diagnostics, developed a treatment plan, or ensured that she receives prescribed treatments. Sara displays a high intensity and frequency of abnormal behaviors, including swaying and head-bobbing. She appears to be nervous around people and shows fear responses toward her trainer. She frequently thumps her trunk on the ground, an common indicator of anxiety, and she may walk with her mouth open, a sign of abdominal discomfort or thirst.

Karen is a 42-year-old elephant who was born in the wild in Asia. Experts have deemed her to be in such poor condition that the humane option would be to allow her to retire. Late in 2010, Karen was granted a reprieve and permitted to stop traveling, but as of March 2011, she is back with the Blue Unit. Karen is being forced to perform unnatural “tricks”—such as lifting a basket with a dog inside it with her mouth while standing on a rotating pedestal—despite needing veterinary care for dental problems and overgrown, inflexible foot pads, a condition that is painful and predisposes her to osteoarthritis.

Meet some of the elephants forced to travel with Ringling’s Red Unit:

Tonka was born in captivity and has been with Ringling since about 1989. PETA captured on video an incident in which the 28-year-old elephant was hooked behind the ear, causing her to scream and bleed, while the elephants were being walked from the arena to the train in Austin, Texas. Her brother, Kenny, suffered a worse fate. In 1998, 3-year-old Kenny, who had been bleeding from his rectum and was clearly very sick, died alone in a stall after being forced to perform despite being sick. As a result, Ringling was charged with violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and paid $20,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

Luna, an Asian elephant, is considered to be especially dangerous. Like Tonka, she and her siblings have also suffered horrible abuse at the hands of the circus industry. Luna’s brother Ned was found to be emaciated and was confiscated from circus trainer Lance Ramos-Kollmann in 2008. Ned was placed at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where he died on May 15, 2009. Luna’s brother Benjamin drowned on July 26, 1999, when he was only 4 years old, as he tried to move away from a trainer who was jabbing him with a bullhook while he was swimming in a pond.

Angelica, 14, has been held captive by Ringling since the day that she was born. In 1999, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report stated that there were large lesions on Angelica’s leg, and a Ringling employee said that the scars were caused by rope burns resulting from the violent and terrifying process of separating Angelica from her mother. In January 2006, the USDA cited Ringling for causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to Angelica and another elephant who suffered injuries after the two elephants ran amok while performing in Puerto Rico.

AssanBanana, and Baby were born in the wild in Asia, and all three have been with Ringling since about 1968. A humane officer discovered lacerations consistent with bullhook wounds on Assan and Baby during an inspection in California. A former Ringling employee reported that the elderly Banana, who suffers from arthritis, was not being given medication to help alleviate the pain.


Take Action to Help Ailing Elephants Now

Imagine if you had to walk to work every day while suffering from a debilitating medical condition that caused your joints to ache and your feet to throb. At work, you’d be kept on your feet constantly and forced to perform physical labor for long shifts. You’d be given no chance to recuperate (much less retire), and when you slowed down or balked, your boss would hit youwith something resembling a fireplace poker or would stick the pointy end of the instrument under your chin and drag you around. When you weren’t working, you would live in chains.
That’s pretty much what life is like for Karen and Nicole—two crippled elephants who are shunted from town to town by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the ability and the responsibility to seize suffering animals, yet the agency allows them to travel up to 50 weeks a year in cramped and filthy boxcars and trailers, to be kept tightly chained by two legs (and sometimes all four), and to be beaten for even looking sideways at a trainer. PETA’s complaints against Ringling Bros.—persistently filed over several years—regarding beatings and the death of elephants, including one particular baby who succumbed during training, led to the largest fine in circus history.

But while fining Ringling Bros. is a step in the right direction, it is only the first step and does nothing to stop the horrors that elephants are enduring at this very moment. In July 2012, after a thorough inspection by an elephant expert, Nicole and Karen were found to be arthritic, crippled, and in chronic pain. Even though the expert notified the city of Los Angeles of their dire condition and recommended that the elephants sit out of the show, Karen and Nicole were forced to perform as usual. This is just one of the numerous examples of city officials ignoring compelling evidence and the opinions of independent experts. Since local jurisdictions have not acted on the clear evidence of abuse and neglect, it is up to the USDA to see to it that the federal laws designed to protect these animals are enforced.

Please take a minute of your time to weigh in regarding these suffering elephants and push for them to get the retirement that they deserve. Please use the form below to urge Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to confiscate all ailing animals from Ringling now. There are reputable sanctuaries that would gladly provide the elephants with a safe environment so that they can live out the rest of their years in peace.



Dear [Decision Maker],




[Your Name]

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End of the road for animal acts

By Jennifer O’Connor

The trend is undeniable: The days of hauling animals around and hurting them in the name of entertainment are quickly coming to an end. Winnipeg is the latest municipality to slam the door shut on circuses using exotic animals. Mayor Sam Katz and the Winnipeg City Council made it clear that they will no longer tolerate circus cruelty.

All around the world, cities and entire countries are banning exotic-animal circus acts. Austria, Bolivia, Colombia, Greece, Paraguay and Peru have done so already, and others, including Britain and Scotland, are on the verge of doing so. Besides outright bans, many cities are saying no to the tools that circuses use to inflict pain, such as the bullhook—a heavy baton with a sharp metal hook on the end that can rip and tear elephants’ skin—and electric prods. Since circuses control animals with these cruel devices—or more accurately, attempt to control them, since so many have run amok—such prohibitions effectively keep the animals out.

Only a decade or so ago, the fabulous Cirque du Soleil was one of the few alternative circuses around. But the demand for cruelty-free entertainment has skyrocketed, and now there are more than a dozen vibrant, innovative productions touring North America that don’t exploit animals. Even consummate huckster P.T. Barnum couldn’t convince today’s informed public that beating animals and keeping them in cages and chains from birth to death is acceptable.

The empirical evidence of what life is like for animals in circuses is undeniable and readily available to the public. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, for example, paid a record $270,000 to settle multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. At least 30 elephants have died while in Ringling’s hands since 1992.

Former employees of Ringling have come forward to report egregious abuses, including forcibly removing baby elephants from their frantic mothers, tying them down by all four legs, and slamming them to the ground, surrounded by “trainers” wielding bullhooks and electric hotshots.

An undercover investigator videotaped a Carson & Barnes elephant trainer who was viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook and shocking them with electric prods. The elephants screamed in agony while recoiling from the assaults. The trainer can be heard instructing his students to sink the weapons into the elephants’ flesh and twist them until the elephants scream in pain.

Despite being ordered to pay a $7,500 penalty to settle nearly three dozen charges of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, the Liebel Family Circus continues to drag around an elephant named Nosey, even though she is suffering from a chronic skin condition. The Piccadilly Circus was given an official warning by federal authorities about its animal-handling practices. The Kelly Miller Circus has been cited for denying adequate veterinary care to an elephant with a painful, oozing puncture wound on her ear, among other abuses.

The facts are simple and stark: Animals in circuses suffer tremendously. Every parent or grandparent who buys a ticket is contributing directly to the animals’ misery. Every child who exits a show believing that hurting animals is “fun” leaves a bit of his or her heart behind. Our elected officials should enact additional laws that put a stop to an outmoded form of “entertainment” that has no place in a civilized society.