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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


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.

Now here’s a great way to begin the new year. Beginning January 1, 2009, online auction site eBay has banned ivory products on its site. Animal activists around the world have long condemned eBay for acting as a major black market source for forbidden elephant tusks. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) recently discovered that approximately two-thirds of the worldwide online trade in protected wildlife takes place on eBay, a major online auction and shopping Web site.


ivoryIFAW said that poachers take the lives of more than 20,000 elephants in Africa and Asia each year to meet the high demand for ivory products. The sale of elephant ivory has been prohibited since 1989, though there are certain exceptions to the rule.


In a statement, Jack Christin, senior regulatory counsel for eBay said, “Due to the unique nature of eBay’s global online marketplace and the complexity surrounding the sale of ivory, we decided to ban the sale of ivory on eBay. We appreciate the support from the IFAW in assisting us and we look forward to continuing to work with them on the implementation of the global ban.


“Like the IFAW, ultimately we feel this is the best way to protect the endangered and protected species from which a significant portion of ivory products are derived.”


The ban will also cover antique jewelry created before the international trade ban came into effect in 1989. Only pianos with ivory keys and wood furniture with small amounts of ivory inlay made before 1900 will be allowed to be sold.


An investigation by IFAW revealed that over a period of six weeks, more than 7,000 items of ivory were being sold online, with 63 percent of the items sold through eBay. The US had a 70 percent market share — 10 times that of the UK, the next largest market. In the US, the transactions had an advertised value of $3.8 million (£2.6 million), and sales of about $460,000 on eBay provided the site with commission of at least $20,000.


“Internet dealers need to take responsibility for their impact on endangered species by enacting and enforcing a ban on all online wildlife trade,” said Robbie Marsland, director of IFAW UK.


Please take a moment to thank eBay for making the compassionate choice.

Welcome to the official blog for Striking at the Roots by Mark Hawthorne, your source for interviews, profiles, and advice for more effective animal activism.

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