Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus on trial for elephant abuse

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is known as The Greatest Show on Earth but a former employee, in conjuction with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Fund for Animals, Born Free USA and Animal Protection Institute are ready to claim in federal court that that it’s not the greatest place on earth for elephants. The lawsuit claims that the circus violates the Endangered Species Act by training their Asian elephants with cruel and inhumane methods. The suit claims elephants with Ringling Bros. circus are trained and disciplined with sharp bull hooks and by isolating and chaining the elephants for sometimes days at a time.

“We look forward to finally having the opportunity to establish at trial that Ringling Bros. inhumanely and unlawfully mistreats the endangered Asian elephants it uses to perform in shows all across the country,” said lead counsel Katherine Meyer of the law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal. “The elephants not only deserve to be treated in a humane manner but they are entitled to be protected under the law and we hope that they will be afforded such protection once this case finally comes to an end.”

Over the years, the plaintiffs have amassed a wealth of evidence to support their claims including photographs, video footage, internal Ringling Bros. documentation and reports from the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition to such evidence, eyewitness testimony from former Ringling Bros. employees and testimony from leading elephant behavior experts will be presented by the plaintiffs at trial.

[From Breitbart.com]

As an elephant enthusiast, I stopped going to the nearby zoo a couple years ago because the last time I went a young elephant was chained in a small dirt area in the grass. The elephant was rocking back and forth. I watched him for 45 minutes, just rocking. He reminded me of an autistic child trapped in his own mind, unable to escape the loneliness and torture of being cut off from the rest of his world. I cried the whole time I watched him and when I asked a zoo worker why he was just being left there I was told that he was being moved and the transport wouldn’t be ready for a couple days. Anyone who would talk to me told me it was fine and it wasn’t hurting the young male elephant. I looked in his eyes, for a long time, that elephant was in emotional pain.

Elephants have powerful emotions. If you’ve ever watched a documentary about them, you’ll have seen the way they fiercely protect even the young of other elephants, as a group, and how they so sorrowfully mourn the passing of one of their own. Even elephants they don’t know, if they come across the dead body, they will gather and cry for that elephant. They’re incredible creatures and don’t need the kind of tactics used by Ringling circus to learn anything.

I have always loved seeing the elephants at the circus, they’re my favorite animal, I can’t help it. One of my favorite memories of my childhood was riding the elephants at the circus fieldtrip. But the thought of what they’ve endured just isn’t worth it. I don’t know what the fine or punishment Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Field Productions could face, but I pray it’s steep and severe. Maybe we could all take a poke or two at them with a bull hook while they’re chained to the ground for days.

Here is more information about the abuse of elephants by Ringling Brothers.

Photos are from “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presents ‘Bellobration!’ at the Verizon Center” in Washington, DC, on 3/28/08, which included signs for the candidates in the Presidential election. Credit: Carrie Devorah / WENN

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26 Responses to “Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus on trial for elephant abuse”

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  1. xiaoecho says:

    Why are these circuses still operating? – spitting in the streets went out with the turn of the twentieth century but this sort of thing is still tolerated

  2. Baholicious says:

    I love elephants too. The time of circuses with animal attractions has outlived its day. The public is no longer (as) ignorant regarding animals-as-entertainment as they once were. I am sure audience numbers are down at these circuses but the question is, if they fold what happens to the elephants? Many are too emotionally damaged to be put with other elephants in sanctuaries and whatnot. Even if there is space for them, they require a lot of rehabilitation.

    It’s not just the circuses either. If anyone has seen how the Indian mahouts ‘break’ a wild elephant calf, you know how abusive and heartbreaking it is.

  3. RAN says:

    I couldn’t click into the abuse link…I just can’t, but I will say that I hope they get what’s coming to them (any and ALL circus people). I don’t think B&B circus people are the only ones who abuse their animals and I hope that the abuse of the other animals is looked into as well. The big cats are treated terribly as are the tamer animals (like the elephant and horses) – it’s enough to make you sick.

  4. Lindsay says:

    This made me tear up and get insanely angry at the same time. I sponsor an elephant in Thailand and just adore them as a species; it makes me ill to think of these intelligent, emotional beings being treated in this way. Fuck the circuses.

  5. smit33 says:

    I hope they rot in hell. Three things I can’t tolerate is abuse in animals, children and the elderly. And for them it’s just about money. Makes it even worse.

  6. Uma Sultani007 says:

    If in fact this is true, I hope they get stomped! Sick, just sick!

  7. GirlyGirl says:

    This post made me cry. I just took my niece & nephew to the zoo last weekend and I saw an elephant rocking like you mentioned, but I didn’t see any cruelty going on. Is the rocking a sign of distress?
    @ Smit33: I feel the same way. Abuse of any child, animal, or elderly person is inexcusable and should not be tolerated. :(

  8. Jess says:

    We have not and will not be taking our kids to see Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. We can choose to not attend, they cannot.

  9. Emily says:

    That is too bad–I used to go see this circus every year as a kid when it came to NYC at Madison Square Garden. I have good memories of watching the circus and being enthralled every time the elephants came out. But if the elephants are being mistreated, the circus deserved to be punished. I hope those poor elephants get a break.

  10. rbsesq says:

    DO NOT SUPPORT ANY CIRCUS!! This Ringling Bros, guys, the “greatest show on earth.” Think of the money they take in everyday, and they are still abusing their animals. How do you think the animals in the little podunk traveling circus passing through your town are treated?! I know people think it’s great to take their kids to ride the elephant, but it’s not great. It’s horrible. Think of what they did to that elephant to get him to the point where he would willingly cart around your kid for your entertainment.

    A lot of zoos are no better. If you think an animal is being abused or neglected, contact the local authorities. It doesn’t matter if a zoo employee tells you it’s fine. Of course they’re going to say it’s fine. I know a lot of people don’t want to make waves or get someone in trouble, but trust me, it’s better to make sure that someone qualified to determine whether an animal is being abused has to opprotunity to do so. Any animal control officer will tell you that they appreciate calls regarding animal welfare because there aren’t enough of them to monitor everything they need to monitor and they rely on people to let them know when there’s a problem.

    Sorry for the long post, but I have very strong opinions on this subject.

  11. Minda says:

    Animal abuse is disgusting. Circuses are disgusting. Humans who abuse animals, or are aware of abuse to animals, and stay silent are disgusting. I think I love animals more than humans.

  12. jess says:

    i was so scared to read this story. i was really hoping we would find out that it was just some burned employee trying to get back at them.

    i haven’t been to a circus in at least 16 years. animal cruelty is the worst because these animals cant reach out and tell anyone what is going on. they just have to endure and wonder why it is happening.

    I hope they nail these guys to the point where they have to personally pay for rehabilitation for ALL their animals and that they are shut down. there is NO excuse for animal cruelty.

  13. Allie says:

    When I was little I never understood why my parents wouldn’t let me go to the circus. I just thought that they were mean. Now I understand that they refused to support animal cruelty and I completely agree with everyone who thinks these guys should pay dearly for how they have been treating these animals.

    When I was in Tokyo we went to a zoo and I spent the whole time feeling a little disgusted because it was pretty obvious that the animals at that particular zoo were not very well cared for. The tiger was so skinny you could count its ribs and the elephant was chained up in a cage all alone. You could see all around where the chain sat on its leg there were sores and whatnot because it had been there for so long.

    Sigh. :(

  14. Julia says:

    :( Elephants are beginning to be born with a natural distrust of humans – this is evolution actually revealing the abuse they have suffered at mankind’s hands for centuries. They are so beautiful and intelligent – I will never visit a circus with animals again. :(

  15. Julia says:

    A local fair once had a traveling animal show with an elephant for kids to ride. Anyone who says animals don’t have feelings would change his mind after seeing what was so clearly depression. I did report it, but nobody ever would tell me what, if anything, was done. I’m sure that since it wasn’t actively being beaten while I watched, nothing was done.
    I was depressed for weeks about it.

  16. kate says:

    @ girlygirl: yes, it is a sign of distress. the tactics used to train these animals are very cruel and abusive, not to mention the very un-naturalness of what they are doing. elephant don’t stand on balls in the wild. the animalls are being used to make money, no other reason, and people will put animal’s welfare last if it means making more money for them. you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out, as i figured it out on my own when i was about 5 and refused to go to the circus. christ, why are people still going to these things? would you go to a dogfight, too? no difference. how about a nice horserace? hopefully you won’t have to witness any horses getting shot.

  17. bub's mom says:

    Thank you for raising more awareness about the deplorable treatment of these gentle giants by circuses and zoos. Please visit elephants.com to learn more about this problem and to support a wonderful elephant sanctuary in TN. They continue to save circus and zoo elephants, including “The Hawthorn” elephants.

  18. tigerlille says:

    If this is true, and it looks bad, I hope at the very least that the elephants are taken from them and put in a safe place.

  19. tigerlille says:

    @ bub’s mom

    What a wonderful site! Thanks for the reference.

    I think that we will make a contribution to the Sanctuary for Xmas.

  20. Aud says:

    Unfortuneately, circus and zoo animal abuse isnt that big a secret. There are lots of people with their hearts and outrage in the right place, but not enough people in positions to actually DO something about it. Sure you can donate to sanctuaries and whatnot, but there’s not enough people high enough on the food chain to stop the abuse. Same thing with all animal abuse, all child abuse, all elderly abuse, any kind of abuse. Plenty enough heart, not enough resources.

  21. whatevs says:

    This is terrible, I’m a total animal lover and things like this really piss me off. I haven’t been to the zoo since I was a kid, it’s too depressing.

    Does anyone remember Tyke? That poor elephant that went on a rampage in Hawaii, the cops got trigger happy and shot it many, MANY times. My mom worked down the street from where this all was taking place and she cried about it for hours after she got home. People said they had to shoot it excessively cause it would not go down, but hello, if that animal was never there in the first place none of it would have happened. This circus crap and mistreatment of the animals wont stop til people stop going.

  22. lindseey says:

    I just have to say, I love this message board. Its the only celeb gossip site where the people commenting are sensitive and intelligent. Even though I don’t always agree with all the comments (especially political ones!) I always enjoy hearing everybody’s perspectives and what other people think. Reading celeb goss sites makes it really easy to feel disheartened by the world, but this one is different.
    To hear that the writer of this site cried and looked into the elephants eyes… *sigh* I would have done the exact same thing. And everyone I know would have called me immature. So its nice to know that there actually are people out there like me.

    I for one, am sick of circuses. Why are they still around, seriously? I imagine that most circus animals are not treated well. its not right! Aud I totally agree with what you wrote. I wish I was in a position to help, it sucks having the heart & not being able to do anything. ANd minda, same, I love animals more than humans. Humans are mean!

  23. bub's mom says:

    @ Aud – While I agree with your sentiment, it should be noted that the Elephant Sanctuary has been around for a long time and the founders are elephant behavior experts who are called upon to testify in cases like the one above. They continue to actively raise awareness about elephant abuse as well as about diminishing elephant habitats in Africa and Asia. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but I worry your comment will cause some people to not act to do something to help. Collective efforts CAN and DO make a difference!

  24. Ceilidh says:

    I just wanted to say thank you, bub’s mom, for your knowledge and for sharing it.

  25. Jim says:

    I disagree that the animals are being abused and I have seen abused animals before and they are scared and will not move or in this case perform as they were trained to do. most abused animals cower and turn away from there handler or a person they feel will abuse them again. I truly believe Ringling is doing the best care in the relative large area they give the animals after the show. Yes they travel in a relative small area on trains but that is a small percentage of time compared to the total time they are on the road do the numbers. I have seen them in pre-show an hour before the show and they seem calm and do move back and forth but I have also seen the same behavor in wild animals so I think this is common behavior and shouldn’t be considered stressed behavior, but I am not a animal expert or claim to be just an observant viewer of animals. Watch an elephant in the wild I think they do it to comunicate with other elephant in some way as when one does it the other does it back to them. I could be wrong but know one knows what an elephant think except maybe another elephant??

  26. Jim says:

    I case people would like to know and I have heard many times that the animals are trained to do these feats so that they can be examined and taken care of just like dolphin jump up on the mats on the edge of the pool and roll over so they may take blood and examine them and preform routine health maintance on the animal to keep it healthy and well so it may live a long life. Most animals live a long life in captivity and endangered one are use to breed, and increase the population and be let back into the wild. As I think was done with are USA symbol the Bald Eagle which was taken off the endangered speices list just recently through conservation and intervention by man!!! Hope Ringling is able to keep intrest in the Elephant and not let us lose such a wonderful animal to corporate greed and lose of habitat. As God his given us this beautiful animal to have on earth and once it is gone we can’t ask God for another chance with it!!!