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Circus Handlers Beat Elephants in New Ringling Bros. PETA Video


PETA went undercover at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and today released a video documenting animal abuse, specifically against elephants and tigers, at Ringling Bros. Circus.

The NYDN reports:

"A worker with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals used a secret camera to document what the group calls the abuse of animals as they're led from holding pens to the stage. The animals are seen herded together, wearing headdresses, while trainers stand around, appearing to randomly whip them with bull hooks across the head, legs and body. Loud cracking noises can be heard. In one scene, a handler curses an elephant, saying, 'F--- you, fat ass' before using his whip to nonchalantly strike its trunk. The elephants are led with a bull hook - a long pole with a metal point at the end - used to pull them by the trunk. The undercover PETA employee scored a job with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and traveled with the circus as it toured seven states, a spokesman said."

A website has been launched exposing the circus.

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...


As an addendum to this post, here's the documentary mentioned by commenter E about an elephant being freed to reunite with another elephant after 20 years. Thanks for the link, Mike.

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  1. I really wish that Peta would focus on some of the real sick shit in the world and not just continue to use propaganda like this to keep up their revenues.

    Look at the meat industry. They way that our food animals are treated is SO far beyond this and people continue to not care and eat at places like McDs.

    Or better yet, why not focus on the abuse that goes on towards children in africa or anywhere else in the world?

    I really wish that Peta was NOT an actual comapny that was here for profit and that they did some actual good for animals and/or people in the world.

    Posted by: Furrycolt | Jul 22, 2009 12:24:45 PM

  2. PETA is only interested in PETA... they don't DO anything, they just run around and complain. They're the nine year-old little brother to all the legitimate animal rights groups of the world.

    Calling an elephand "fat ass" is mistreatment? Is that why elephants are so big: self-esteem issues?

    I love their note that elephants have "sensitive skin". Really...? Have they ever been near an elephant?

    Posted by: Chris | Jul 22, 2009 12:36:00 PM

  3. Thanks for featuring this story, Andy.

    I commend the elephants for not flat-out crushing these abusive "trainers"--they're certainly capable of it, and that's probably what I would do in their position. The use of animals in the circus is a barbaric tradition that needs to end. Elephants in particular are intelligent and are known to have deep and significant emotional attachments. I saw a heart-crushing documentary a few years ago about two circus elephants that had both been abused, and then separated when they were no longer of "use." Coincidentally, they both were sent to the same retirement sanctuary *decades* later, and they recognized one another again immediately, and were so desperate to see and touch one another that they bent the bars of their cages to intertwine trunks. (Yeah, I cried.)

    Regarding the comment above, the fact that animals are abused in the meat industry doesn't mean abuse shouldn't be investigated in other areas as well. And chastising PETA for not working of behalf of abused children in Africa is as nonsensical as anything I've seen on these boards. They are, thankfully, other organizations for that.

    Posted by: E. | Jul 22, 2009 12:40:57 PM

  4. Anyone who thinks the kind of treatment those circus animals receive is fine and dandy is an self centered asshole.

    I'm not a fan of PETA, but they got this one right.

    I've never been to a circus and will never go to one simply because of how they treat those animals.

    And Chris, if the elephants couldn't feel those bullhooks, they'd use something else to make sure they hurt them enough to obey.

    Maybe a bullhook used on you might change your mind.

    But then again, people like you who think animals don't are jerks.

    Posted by: Bobby | Jul 22, 2009 12:42:29 PM

  5. We wonder why animals attack their trainers?

    Seriously though, despite the fact that I'm NOT a Peta fan, this video is disgusting. I didn't see a reason the elephants needed to be hit. It looks like this happens more than a few times because of how the elephants react to seeing the stick. It's sad.

    Ringling Brothers needs to change their training policy and make it public, after the company apologizes of course.

    Just don't apologize by making a sizeable donation to Peta!

    Posted by: Ray | Jul 22, 2009 12:45:10 PM

  6. What a stomach churning video.

    "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Mahatma Gandhi

    Posted by: Hank | Jul 22, 2009 12:48:46 PM

  7. Bobby,

    Thanks for the jerk comment. 'preciate it.

    Did I in any way state I thought what Ringling Bros. was doing was right? No. My comments were on PETA. Upset that the animals are called 'fat ass' and the 'sensitive skin' remark was ridiculous. I can't take them seriously. That was my point.

    I don't got to circuses because I don't enjoy them.

    Posted by: Chris | Jul 22, 2009 12:57:08 PM

  8. @FURRYCOLT: Your argument that PETA should focus on other, more egregious crimes against animals strikes me as the equivalent of all those folks who say that Obama shouldn't worry himself right now with marriage equality, DOMA and DADT because he has bigger problems to fix, like the economy, the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, etc... Yes, there are crimes against animals that are more heinous than what is shown in the video. But that does not discount the fact that employees of Ringling Brothers Circus are mistreating elephants when they beat them. And PETA is absolutely correct to bring it to our attention. In fact, PETA reports that since 1992, twenty-five elephants have died while in the 'care' of Ringling Brothers Circus.

    @CHRIS: The skin on an elephant's ear and around the elephant's mouth is paper thin and, yes, extremely sensitive not to mention easy to damage.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jul 22, 2009 12:57:36 PM

  9. @'E': Do you remember the name of the elephant documentary to which you refer? While I'm sure it is horribly sad, I would love to see it.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jul 22, 2009 1:00:38 PM

  10. Every time I see a story about PETA I get hungry for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I know what I'm having for lunch today!!!!!!!!

    Posted by: J. J. | Jul 22, 2009 1:05:15 PM

  11. It has gone so mainstream that people forget that this is why CIRQUE DU SOLEIL was invented - to be a circus without animals! Many people thought it was inconceivable to have a circus without prancing elephants or poor bears. CDS proved that it can be even more magical. Scr*w Ringling Bros and the Shriners - go Cirque Du Soleil!

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jul 22, 2009 1:12:56 PM

  12. I recall a nature program several years ago focusing on the intelligence and emotions of elephants. A herd came upon the bones of a dead elephant. They carefully picked up selected bones with their trunks and could be seen "studying" them, which the narrator said was to see if they recognized "who" it might be. They stood circled around the bones for a period as if in respect, then slowly headed on. It was very, very moving.

    Posted by: AllenG | Jul 22, 2009 1:16:38 PM

  13. I think the program E was talking about was an episode of Nature in 2000 called The Urban Elephant. If you Google "elephants reunited retirement" you'll find a lot of links referencing the episode and the elephants involved. The retirement facility in Tennessee is in the first page of results as well. I think you can find the relevant parts of the video on YouTube, as well as some follow up video by searching on the elephants names.

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 22, 2009 1:18:34 PM

  14. Here's the video of the elephants being reunited:

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 22, 2009 1:28:32 PM

  15. @ Chris:

    Hey, fatass. How 'bout we cane you and see if you still think it is not abuse?

    Posted by: WTF | Jul 22, 2009 1:30:49 PM

  16. Furrycolt's comment is bizarre... we shouldn't care about the abuse of circus animals & instead should focus on children in Africa? You can't do both? Don't worry about Marriage Equality or DODT because the economy is in tatters?
    PETA (I don't belong & have never given them $, although I am a 30 year vegetarian with 2 rescue dogs) at least exposed this abuse & has people talking about it.

    Posted by: Stephen | Jul 22, 2009 1:35:32 PM

  17. About 5 years ago I went to a Ringling Bros Circus, trying feel like the kid I was when I first saw the Circus. Unfortunately like they say "You can't go home again", it was all to depressing.
    I guess its another reason to see Cirque du Soleil instead.

    Posted by: Bob West | Jul 22, 2009 1:39:08 PM

  18. The focus on elephants is appropriate. They are enormous animals that have special needs. In the wild, they roam 3-5 miles a day. I'm not particularly an animal activist but we should not have elephants in circuses or zoos. Elephants should be kept in one or two very large preserves here in the states, in mild climates and if you want to see elephants – that would be where you would go. The Detroit Zoo which fairly recently decided it was in the elephant's best interest not to be there (the harsh, cold winter ground being a major factor) got it right.

    Posted by: Scott B. | Jul 22, 2009 2:01:43 PM

  19. People are suprised by this? When I was 16 back in 1987, I used to belong to PETA and went to many Ringling Bros.Circus to protest their cruelity to the animals. This abuse was happening then and still is. I will give my money to non animal circus.
    Some people on here seem to have very small hearts. How would you feel being a slave for your whole life?

    Posted by: DairyQueen | Jul 22, 2009 2:10:15 PM

  20. i remember the last time i attended the circus sometime in the early 90s. i had to leave early because i couldn't stand the way the animals were being used and watching as their very dignity was being destroyed by the stupid pet tricks they were made to do.

    as a native american, i've caught flack from my fellow natives because of my refusal to attend rodeos for this very reason. it's really hard for me to watch animals being treated that way.

    Posted by: alguien | Jul 22, 2009 2:19:10 PM

  21. It's about empathy.

    Circuses can do without animals. And animals can and should do without abuse.

    Posted by: Richardson | Jul 22, 2009 2:29:39 PM

  22. Thanks, MIKE!

    Posted by: peterparker | Jul 22, 2009 2:58:41 PM

  23. @PETERPARKER: The link that Mike provided above is indeed from the program I was talking about. Thanks for digging that up, Mike. I recommend the whole episode; it's incredibly moving. I forgot that the two elephants were both female too!

    Because I can't resist sharing this too (and to balance out some of the more heartless comments in this thread--seriously, gays without empathy baffle me to no end): I also recommend searching "Bella and Tara" in YouTube as well. It's about an elephant and a dog who are friends and the dog gets sick and... yeah, I might've teared up at this one too, but it has a happy ending!

    Posted by: E. | Jul 22, 2009 3:02:08 PM

  24. These elephant handlers should be fired at the very least. But let's not demonize Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus entirely. During the early days of AIDS, they were among the very first to sponsor a fund raising event. On April 30, 1983, GMHC netted $ 250,00.00 at a galvanizing early AIDS fundraiser that was attended by 17,600 people at Madison Sqaure Garden. Our community's very own eminence grise, Larry Kramer, called it "the biggest, most successful gay fund-raising event ever held."

    Posted by: bading | Jul 22, 2009 3:32:03 PM

  25. Would these "handlers" treat the animals this way in public, in front of paying customers? Hell no. But what the circus is doing is stomach-churning, and should meet the definition of criminal animal cruelty.

    Posted by: Grego | Jul 22, 2009 3:34:53 PM

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