Ringling Bros circus to go on trial for elephant abuse


The legendary Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus goes on trial Monday in Washington for allegedly abusing the elephants that perform in the group's shows.

On Oct 27 the federal district court in Washington will hear the animal abuse case against Ringling Bros and its parent company Feld Entertainment, eight years after a former employee teamed up with animal advocates to launch the lawsuit.

The case will focus on whether the company, billed as the "Greatest Show on Earth," violated the Endangered Species Act by training its Asian elephants with sharp bull hooks and chaining the animals for days on end.

The plaintiffs -- including former employee Tom Rider, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute -- will present evidence against Ringling that includes eyewitness testimony, video footage and testimony from elephant behavior experts accumulated over the years.

The complaint states that Ringling engages in unlawful activities by "routinely beating the elephants to 'train' them, 'discipline' them and keep them under control, chaining them for long periods of time."

Lisa Weisberg, a legal consultant for ASPCA, said the circus routinely uses sharp implements such as bull hooks to coerce the elephants.

"They hook them in very specific places of the body where they are very sensitive, behind their ear, under their chin .... Used at a very young age, the sight of the bull hook is used as an instrument of intimidation," she said.

Rider, a Ringling employee from 1997 to 1999, said the only time the elephants are let off their chain "is when they are performing."

The elephants, which in the wild routinely walk long distances each day, were reported to be chained up in some instances for 26 hours at a time.

The trial is the culmination of eight years of legal wrangling to bring the case to a federal court.

In a trial at a lower court last year, a case was brought against Ringling Bros for the treatment of six elephants, as opposed to the 53 that the circus uses their shows.

"We are immensely proud of our animals and our animal care staff and know that all of the plaintiff's allegations in this lawsuit are without merit," said the company in a statement after the 2007 trial.

"We look forward to finally having the opportunity to establish at trial that Ringling Bros. inhumanely and unlawfully mistreats the endangered Asian elephants it uses to perform in shows all across the country," said plaintiff lawyer Katherine Meyer ahead of the trial on Monday.

The circus, which travels by train across the country, was created by seven brothers in the 19th century, and grew largely through the success of its elephant shows.

There were approximately 200,000 Asian elephants in the world in 1900. Today there are around 35,000.

At its headquarters in Florida the Ringling Bros. have the largest population of Asian elephants in captivity in the Western Hemisphere.

© Wire reports

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Well, human beings in the wild routinely walked long distance each day. Now we get in the car and drive to the grocery a quarter mile away and buy a case of Cheetos, plop down and watch CSI and then drive to work and sit behind a computer. Who can I sue? Myself, I guess.

Ringling Bros probably did not want to be in the center ring on this. And if the ruling goes against them there doesn't seem to be any good solution. Even our modern zoos have more or less unfettered the elephants to let them roam at will, albeit in less than savanna-like freedom. A traveling circus will be hard-pressed to provide that.

I would be sad to see the elephants go. However, one measure of our humanity is how we respond to "other" and that includes species other than our own. (And, lawsy me, don't we have trouble with our own!) If we are going to imprison animals, especially those as intelligent as elephants, we should try to make sure that the prisons are minimal security.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now we get in the car and drive to the grocery a quarter mile away and buy a case of Cheetos, plop down and watch CSI and then drive to work and sit behind a computer.

Of our own volition. And not many of us regularly get a bull hook behind the ear to discipline and train us.

I'm not totally against animals performing for human pleasure, but the animals should be enjoying it too. When cruelty is involved it's time to stop.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is the reason why I dont go to any kind of circus and dont donate money to them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hate clowns.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Not quite of our own volition, I think.

It is true that we are free to choose another life-style and some do. However, in my neighborhood in the states you just do not walk to the grocery which is about 5 blocks from my house. Walking to the grocery is something we do when we shop daily, not weekly. It is safer to drive.

Additionally, there is the matter of infrastructure. I could walk to the grocery. (I just can't carry home enough Cheetos.) We have wide sidewalks in fine repair. Where my parent live, they have an unobstructed view of the grocery across a river and across a field. It's about a quarter mile away. If they walk, it will be more like three quarters of a mile and they will be forced to walk on unsidewalked roads with cars travelling 40 to 60 mph.

So, when you say "of our own volition" I think that at least as much emphasis should be put on social volition as upon personal volition. And I think--because sometimes I'm not sure--that this was my point. We are social animals and we are animals that make changes to our environment in ways which force us to adapt to the environment which we have changed. Those changes are not always good.

Ditto for our relationship with circus animals. The pleasure we take does not always mean that the animals are getting out of the relationship what they really need.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Ringling Bros have been in existence for over a 100 years and they are proud of their animals. I feel we are listening to a disgruntled ex-employee and forgetting the Brothers are "experts" on the care and loving of elephants.

My vote goes to the Rinfling Bros.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sez -

It's totally of our own volition. If you don't like it, you can move to another, safer, neighbourhood. You can choose to go to the gym for the exercise you're missing, or buy a roomwalker. No one chains you up and prevents you moving when they're not using you.

The Ringling elephants don't have any choice. There is no pleasure to be had in a relationship with animals if that relationship is based on fear and abuse.

If the circus is found guilty of cruelty to the elephants, the trainers and owners should be sentenced to a clip around the ear and ankles with a bull hook several times a day, and they should be chained in stocks in a public place for the entertainment and target practice of the general, animal-loving public. - Ten cruel things Ringling does to its elephants.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


I agree about the elephants choice. I disagree about ours.

The point about how the elephants routinely walk long distances is a point about what they have adapted for over a long evolutionary span. My point is that the way we are living is not necessarily what we have evolved for and that to return to what we are evolved for might not be a socially acceptable choice. In other words, what good is volition when you are constrained against using it?

Moderator: Readers, you're going off topic. This thread is about the elephants of Ringling Bros, not "our evolutionary span." Further posts along those lines will be removed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ugh. I hate to see animals suffer. I hope the allegations aren't true, but if they are, Ringling Bros circus should be punished...perhaps with sharp bull hooks and chains.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites