In a press conference held February 12, two former Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus employees spoke out about continued abuse of elephants used for circus shows. The employees alleged the elephants were cruelly hooked, beaten, and forced to spend the majority of their time in chains.
The two former employees stated that they repeatedly complained to the management of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus about the abuse of the elephants, but no action was taken to correct the situation. Both employees left the Ringling circus in the summer of 2006, no longer willing to witness the abuse.
Among the allegations by the former employees are:
· Details of a June 2006 beating of an elephant in Tulsa, OK. The beating was said to have lasted over thirty minutes and the employees stated that the elephant bled profusely as she cried out in pain throughout the beating.
· Accounts of elephants being struck daily with bullhooks (heavy steel-tipped sticks) and are kept chained unless they are released for public viewings.
· Accounts of elephants being transported from circus location to circus location in rarely-cleaned urine and feces-soaked boxcars.
· Observations of elephants who are terrified of trainers to the point that they defecate, urinate, or vocalize fear at the sound of the trainer’s voice.
· Details of topsoil supplies kept on hand to rub into bloody bullhook wounds to conceal injuries sustained by the elephants.
· An account of an elephant with arthritis pain who was denied medication and kept active on the circus route.
Animal rights activists, People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have called for a ban on bullhooks and chaining of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants. PETA Director Debbie Leahy offered support to the two former Ringling Brothers’ employees who stepped forward to speak out about the abuse.
“These two insiders give the public a rare glimpse into the beatings and other abuses that go on behind the scenes at the circus.”
PETA’s 2006 video footage of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus also supports the claims by the two former Ringling Brothers’ employees. The tapes shows lame elephants limping to arenas and handlers abusing elephants with heavy, steel-tipped bullhooks, along with one elephant suffering a bloody wound from a bullhook.
The Human Society of the United States (HSUS) has previously encouraged the public to re-think visiting circuses with live animal acts.
“Wild animals in circuses are subjected to inhumane conditions as they travel from town to town in circuses and traveling shows,” according to Michael Markarian, executive vice president for The HSUS. “With so many choices in family entertainment, there is no justification for supporting circuses that use elephants, tigers and other wild animals to perform tricks and other unnatural behaviors.”