Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ringling Bros. Juggling a $270,000 Fine for the Mistreatment of Animals

Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus (The Greatest Show on Earth) is an American based circus company which was founded over a century ago. The circus uses 'animal performers' as part of its show and many of these animals include the beautiful and intelligent Asian elephant, Bengal tiger, zebra, lions, alpacas, llamas and goats. Ringling Bros. claims to be the 'Greatest Show on Earth', but at what expense to its animals? Often referred to as the 'Saddest Show on Earth' by animal rights groups, this title would appear far more accurate. In 2009, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) went undercover and collected substantial evidence to prove that the animals involved in the travelling circus were being abused and mistreated. These animals aren't made to perform for a few years and allowed to retire in peace (despite what Ringling suggest on their official website), they are exploited for decades in the case of the elephants. Tonka, is a 25 year old elephant Ringling has used since 1989. She has suffered through a life of confined spaces, shackles and bullhooks. She has been humilated infront of thousands wearing flamboyant head dress and paraded like some showgirl on some cheap game show. Most of the 11 elephants at Ringling were ripped from the wild, separated from their family. Babies are forced to train, torn from their mothers' sides.

"Ringling acknowledged that the images were taken at its facility but stated that the training methods depicted acceptable methods of professional elephant-training."
Feet pulled from under them, bound by ropes. These animals are tortured, not trained.

As I mentioned before, elephants are trained through the use of bullhooks. These are metal-tipped prods that are whipped across the elephants head, ears, trunk and legs. I watched a video posted by PETA that was recorded throughout their undercover investigation and honestly could not believe what I was seeing. The elephants are constantly attacked by their handlers. Even while the elephants are standing still, trapped in some sick game of musical statues, these barbarians strike them over and over. They strike them whilst having conversations with each other, like the way you would beat a pen off a desk while talking to your friend at school.

This is a bullhook and quite honestly it would be at home in a museum cabinet of medieval torture equipment.

I was under the impression humans had become a little more civilised since then. Obviously I was wrong.

The evidence collected by PETA and the numerous complaints against Ringling for its treatment of animals has brought about the largest civil penalty against an animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act according to The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has agreed to pay a record $270,000 fine to settle charges that it violated federal animal welfare laws and promises to improve the conditions for animals. Reports of abuse and mistreatment dated back some number of years included elephants being forced to perform despite pain from sand colic; wheelbarrows used to transport meat to tigers were also used to haul away their faeces; zebras escaping from their enclosures in two major incidences; splintered floors and rusted cages used to contain big cats and poor medical record-keeping. PETA has said that the fine is a good step, but it called on the government to confiscate the elephants. The charity has even offered to to purchase an animatronic elephant for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus if the circus retires all of its live performing elephants.

The fact is that even though more egregious instances of animal abuse have been reported in the circus industry historically, the aforementioned violations made by Ringling Bros. highlight the problem of using animals for entertainment purposes. Ethical treatment of animals takes a backseat to the profit circuses rake in from the crowds attracted to idea of seeing elephants and tigers. This has to stop. Animals are not here for our entertainment and are certainly not here to be subjected to a life of sorrow and pain for a quick buck.

CAPS (Captive Animals' Protection Society) s a UK-based charity leading the campaign to end the use of animals in entertainment. They really do amazing work and any way in which you can get involved or support this charity would make a huge difference to circus animals everywhere. Please click here to find out more.

We see this........

But what we really should see is this........



  1. I read about the fine the other day, but I didn't realise they had been filmed so explicitly mistreating the animals.
    You're doing good work for these animals with this blog, mate!

    Btw, your blog made me think of Water For Elephants. Have you seen it? Admittedly, it's more about a love story, but there is definitely a sub-plot surrounding the mistreatment of animals at a Ringling Bros. circus. Definitely check it out if you've not seen it! Xx

  2. Yeah, the video was really upsetting. Thank you for taking the time to read it! :)You know, I have a vague memory of reading about Water For Elephants somewhere, but I haven't seen it or anything! I will definitely check it out! Thanks! :D Hope to see an update with your blog! :) Xx

  3. Great post, Heatherbelle! The picture of Lota (last picture, the emaciated elephant standing in chains) really is what people should think of when they see any circus with elephants. Lota was sold from a zoo to a man who supplied animals to circuses. She contracted tuberculosis while traveling around the country. After years of abuse and illness, she was finally released to a sanctuary, but by then it was too late. She only lived a couple of months there before succumbing to her TB.

    Please don't watch Water for Elephants. While the filmmakers say that the abuse depicted in the film was simulated, Tai, the elephant who played Rosie, was trained through violence. There is undercover video at the Animal Defenders website depicting use of bullhooks and electric prods on Tai and other elephants owned by Have Trunk Will Travel, After seeing that, I don't want to watch the movie, and I don't want to spend my money supporting it. Supporting use of animals in TV and movies is the same as supporting them in the circus.

  4. Ohmigosh, this is awful. It makes me sick that these situations still exist and yet people are so ignorant to them. :(

    ~ Lauren <3

  5. Barbara - Thank you very much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I heard about Lota in the news, but didn't know she died from TB a few months after she was rescued. Truly heartbreaking.

    I honestly didn't realise about Water For Elephants. The lack of awareness regarding the mistreatment of animals used in circuses and films is absolutely terrible. I will definitely be reading more about Tai and Have Trunk Will Travel so I know more in future. Thanks for letting me know. :)


  6. The human being can be such a disgusting creature at times. If only you could give them a taste of their own medicine to really understand what the extent of the torture they are doing on those poor elephants’ is causing.

  7. I completely agree. The 'training' these elephants receive at Ringling Bros. is cruel and inhumane. It needs to stop. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my blog.