Tag Archives: exotic animals

Other animal exploiters would be wise to follow Ringling’s example

Nearly 40 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch.

By Craig Shapiro

The writing on the wall couldn’t have been clearer: protests outside every venue, empty seats inside and a seismic shift in the public’s attitude toward keeping animals in captivity and beating them until they perform. After years of stonewalling, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally acknowledged the message. A blatant animal exploiter since its inception almost 150 years ago, it announced this month that it’s going dark in May.

For the animals in the circus, the final show can’t come soon enough. But if Ringling — whose trainers kept elephants in chains and beat them with bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end) and will keep whipping lions and tigers until the curtain falls — can acknowledge that the days of abusing animals are coming to an end, how long will it be before other circuses follow suit?

Not long: Cole Bros. Circus folded its tent last year, the Big Apple Circus recently filed for bankruptcy and audiences are sparse at Shriners-sponsored circuses.

The public is rightfully appalled by the horrific abuse that circuses like Carson & Barnes inflict on animals, such as viciously beating elephants until they scream, as well as by the negligence that has allowed elephants to escape and run amok. The U.S. Department of Agriculture filed charges against the circus for two 2014 incidents that put elephants and the public at risk.

In the first, three elephants were on the run for nearly an hour after being frightened by a raucous crowd in Missouri. Two of them were injured. A month later in Pennsylvania, an adult and child got dangerously close to an elephant and took a photo. Carson & Barnes is lucky that this grievous safety violation didn’t result in catastrophe: Elephants who are forced to perform in the circus and spend their lives in chains have been known to snap.

The Kelly Miller Circus has a sordid history of federal Animal Welfare Act violations, including public endangerment and failure to provide veterinary records. The outfit still hauls an aging African elephant named Anna Louise around the country. She was taken from her home and family in Zimbabwe and has spent three decades alone, even though these intelligent, social beings need the companionship of other elephants in order to thrive.

Animal abuse and exploitation aren’t limited to circus tents. Orcas, dolphins and other marine animals imprisoned in SeaWorld’s aquatic circuses are also denied everything that’s natural and important to them. But the abusement park is beginning to see the writing on the wall.

Bowing to public pressure and a ruling by the California Coastal Commission, it ended its orca-breeding program in 2016.

It has said, though, that it will keep holding orcas in tiny concrete tanks, where they could languish for decades — if they live that long — unless they’re released to seaside sanctuaries, where they could swim free, socialize and experience some semblance of a natural life.

Nearly 40 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch, including Tilikum, the subject of the lauded documentary Blackfish. His death on January 5, after more than three decades in captivity, moved compassionate people around the world. But the sea change in public opinion isn’t new: The company’s attendance and profits have been tanking for years, and as a result, 320 employees were recently laid off.

It’s high time that Carson & Barnes Circus, the Kelly Miller Circus, SeaWorld and other animal exploiters followed Ringling’s example and did what’s right: Empty the tanks and unlock the cages.

Celebrities’ exotic animal photo ops must stop!


Rose’s Lil’Lilac … she’d never exploit an exotic brother or sis! pics:R.T.

By Jennifer O’Connor

Celebrities wield considerable influence on cultural trends, like it or not. When Oprah does a 21-day vegan cleanse, it makes headlines. When Amal Clooney rocks a Stella McCartney sheath, sales soar. However, one trend that seems innocuous — but is actually damaging — is the pressure on stars to have their photos taken with exotic animals used as “props.”

Celebrities who are asked to pose with wild animals for a magazine spread or who do so while on vacation invariably have good intentions and even love animals, so they are easy marks for the often mercenary and merciless amusement parks and sham “animal orphanages.” These businesspeople drool at the thought of posting or retweeting pictures of a star cuddling with a tiger cub or captive orca. Kind people are naturally drawn to places that claim to offer exotic animals refuge and are eager to see elephants paint, to cuddle with bear cubs or to swim with dolphins, but exposé after exposé has revealed that many of these outfits are breeders, dealers or exhibitors exploiting Hollywood’s goodwill and generosity.

At the recently shuttered Tiger Temple in Thailand, 40 dead cubs were found in a freezer, secretly slaughtered to make tiger wine and other folk remedies for sale on the black market. But it isn’t just the “tiger temples” that are being busted. The number of tourist traps that have tacked the word “sanctuary” or “rescue” onto their names has skyrocketed in recent years. Some are more brazen than others. Tons of celebrities, from Debra Messing to the Kardashian clan, have missed the bigger picture when visiting Mexico’s Black Jaguar–White Tiger Foundation, for example. Touting itself as a rescue organization, this facility refuses to spay or neuter animals and allows “sponsors” (i.e., big donors) to hold, cuddle and take selfies with big cats. Places like this use these celebrity photos to keep visitors coming through the gates.

Many exhibitors continually breed the animals just so they’ll have a constant supply of young animals in order to sell photo ops to people like Beyoncé and Jay Z. Of course the babies are adorable, but they grow fast, and within a few weeks, they are too big to handle. They’ll spend the rest of their lives, sometimes decades, in cramped and barren cages — or even be killed.

All over Asia, elephants are kept chained in trekking camps. A few camps are working to help elephants in trouble, but the vast majority are not, and training methods are barbaric and cruel. As soon as the cameras are gone after someone like Prince William poses with an elephant, the chains go back on and the bullhooks come out.

The same with swim-with-dolphins excursions: I’m sure Rhianna had no inkling that while she can come and go at will, there are metal bars inside those tanks, and the dolphins will remain trapped in that one place until the day they die. When Justin Bieber petted a tiger at a zoo, did he have a clue that the zoo owner had been charged with cruelty to animals? Probably not. And that has to change.

Fans, tell the stars: Stay away from exotic-animal photo ops, and the animals (not the animal exploiters) will be grateful. Of course, you don’t have to be famous to make a difference. Whether right here at home or at an exotic locale abroad, every one of us must fight the temptation to pose with a panther or cuddle a cub.

Renaissance fairs should bid farewell to elephant rides

By Jennifer O’Connor

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.

Why did Harambe die?

By Brittany Peet

How did a 3-year-old boy end up face-to-face with a 400-pound gorilla? Harambe’s death was as preventable as it was tragic.

Western lowland gorillas are gentle animals. They never attack unless provoked. Video of the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo shows Harambe appearing to stand guard over the boy and carefully picking him up by the back of his shorts. They briefly held hands. Eyewitnesses said that it appeared the screams of bystanders agitated and confused Harambe.

According to reports, the little boy didn’t even spend the night in the hospital. He was treated for scrapes and released. No fractures. No internal injuries. And that is the only good thing to come out of this incident.

So who’s to blame for Harambe’s untimely death? Was it the parents, who might not have been supervising their child closely enough? Was it the zoo, which didn’t have an adequate secondary barrier, making it possible for a small child to fall in? Or are we all complicit, by allowing him to be robbed of everything natural and important to him, including his freedom and the opportunity to be a father to his own child?

Gorillas are keenly intelligent, complex, vegetarian animals. Their lives revolve around their families. In the wild, Harambe would have worked to become the leader of his troop. He would have decided where they would stop to eat or rest and where to build their nests at night. He would have put his life on the line to protect his family.

Female gorillas, like all primate mothers, nurture their babies and have shown that they can be protective of smaller living beings. Who can forget gorilla Binti Jua, who gently picked up an unconscious boy who had fallen into her enclosure and cradled him in her arms before carefully handing him over to Brookfield Zoo keepers?

Breeding gorillas under the guise of saving them is a farce, although that doesn’t stop zoos from churning out babies. Newborns are irresistible to the public and bring visitors through the gates. In one final indignity, the Cincinnati Zoo literally squeezed every last possible dollar out of Harambe by “harvesting” the sperm from his dead body. But captive-born gorillas will never be released into the wild or be able to help their wild cousins.

Gorillas do not belong behind bars. At least 14 zoos have used drugs to control “undesirable” behavior in captive gorillas. We should not continue to imprison animals who have to be drugged in order to be controlled and to mask the evidence of their unhappiness. Zoos cannot even begin to meet these magnificent animals’ complex needs. Instead of squandering millions to keep a few gorillas in cages, zoos should work on protecting their besieged natural habitats and fighting poaching. The public can help by supporting reputable sanctuaries that put animals’ welfare first.

Adorable pygmy hippo dies in travelling show!

Why can’t America do right by wild animals? Why so much pain, suffering and death?      – R.T.


Written by Jennifer O’Connor | January 29, 2015

Animals continue to suffer and die while in the “care” of the notorious Carson & Barnes Circus. A hippopotamus named Katie, whom the circus had hauled around the country, was found dead. Her spine and hip bones were protruding, yet the circus had never weighed her and wasn’t tracking her body condition before she died. … CLICK HERE to read more! 


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

Worcester Mayor Joe Petty …


… told me a few hours ago HE WON’T BE DOING ANY PR with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at/in front of Worcester  City Hall or on our Worcester Common next week …


“Busy all week.” Mayor Petty told me. (I took this pic of him, with his son, last summer!) He didn’t sound too excited about the wild animals in the circus … “Busy all week,” he said again.

Good enough for this gal!

Petty’ll pretty much be following the lead of former Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien, whose office just stepped away from the whole Ringling elephant/wild animal horror show.

Petty also agreed with me: Fewer and fewer kids – people in their late 20s /early 30s – are into circuses that have wild animals. They don’t want to go – they skip the whole scene.

More and more young people just get the total up-side-down-ness of  forcing wild animals into a kind of servitude for humans. Cruel, cruel, cruel … THEY GET IT! I predict circuses with wild animals will soon go the way of the old circus “freak show,” a cruel term used not so long ago to describe hustlers parading people like “The Elephant Man” or little people, etc in front of large crowds, totally oblivious to their loneliness, sadness, emotional deprivation, often physical pain …

Most of Europe’s done it. Lots of other countries, too. Why is the U.S. lagging behind? We try to be first when it comes to human rights. Why not animal rights? The two are inextricably bound!

– R. Tirella

p.s. Petty also said, quite nicely, that YES, he listens to/hears me! Very nice telephone conversation. I felt like I was talking with a smart, sensitive guy! Made me feel good about my city!

Ringling Bros circus heads to Worcester. BOYCOTT it!

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

The tragedy of Tyke continues

By Jennifer O’Connor

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

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

After years of chains and beatings, Tyke had snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Elephants truly never do forget. Their memories are extraordinary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

It’s great …

… when this happens: You deliver your papers – two seconds later, someone has picked up a copy and is reading it! Biggest compliment you can pay this gal!

Interesting … this hardworking young man said he and his friends aren’t into circuses that use exotic animals. He frowned when he talked about them. And his buddy/co-worker (not in pic) agreed, saying the touring wild animal thing would be history within 10 years … .

It’s funny, Ringling is in town and they are downplaying the horrific way they make their dough. As if they know the end is near … . Their ads are very Cirque de Soleil: a print of a lady riding a dragon. Their theme is dragons. Bull shit. It’s elephants and tigers and … enslaving them and breaking their spirit and feeding them crap and making them experience and do everything that is totally unnatural to them. THE ANIMALS ARE NOT DOMESTICATED, LIKE HORSES OR DOGS. THEY ARE WILD – LIKE WOLVES OR COYOTES. THEY ARE BEING FORCED TO BE WITH HUMANS AND PERFORM FOR THEM. It is wrong to enslave any wild thing … .

This young guy is the new Worcester and America. The kids don’t want to enslave wild animals! The Kids Are All Right!

– R. Tirella