ElephantsA new undercover investigation by PETA has revealed (yet again) circus handlers abusing animals. Video footage, which was released today, shows employees of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus beating elephants before they enter the ring. The video depicts elephants being whipped and making noises in protest. Workers sink bullhooks into the elephants’ sensitive skin and pull hard as the animals trumpet in pain. One of the elephants in PETA’s video, 25-year-old Tonka, is shown swaying back and forth, bobbing her head and kicking her foot ― all stereotypic behaviors indicative of severe psychological stress.

The video was taken by a PETA employee who got a job with Ringling Bros., working as a stagehand from January to June and traveling with the circus across seven states.

Predictably, rather than owning up to the abuse — or even agreeing to look into the matter — officials from Ringling Bros. are relying on a tactic commonly used by animal exploiters when faced with proof of their cruelty: attacking the messenger. “PETA is an animal rights extremist group,” said a spokesman for Ringling Bros. “We have 139 years of experience of working with Asian elephants.”

What You Can Do:

Contact the USDA. Ask them to seize the elephants in Ringling’s hands immediately, investigate PETA’s evidence and enforce the Animal Welfare Act, the federal law that governs the humane care, handling, treatment and transportation of animals used in circuses.

Mr. Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC  20250

Email: AgSec@usda.gov

If a circus is coming to your community, speak up!

  • Contact the local humane society and ask what measures will be taken to ensure animals will be treated in accord with the Animal Welfare Act when the circus is in town. (In some cases, your humane society might not even be aware that the circus is coming.)
  • Write to your local paper and explain why the use of live animals in traveling shows is not acceptable. Click here for details.
  • Contact circus sponsors and ask them to support humane events rather than the circus.
  • If local merchants offer free or discount passes to the circus, ask them not to.
  • Protest the circus. Many local and national animal rights organizations, including PETA, will help you organize a peaceful demonstration. I protested the Carson & Barnes circus when it came to my community last month, and many families turned away once they learned about the cruelty under the big top.