On the afternoon of Ringling’s final two shows in New York City, dozens of activists blanketed the entrances to the Barclay’s Center to educate customers about animal cruelty in the circus. During the protest, several patrons changed their mind about going inside.
John DiLeonardo, the president of Long Island Organizing for Nature (LION) and an organizer of the protest, showed hundreds of people entering the circus a bull hook, the weapon used by Ringling “trainers” to beat elephants into submission.
John Di Leonardo shows circus patrons a bull hook
Roberto Bonelli, a grassroots organizer with Animals Battalion, said that activists staged protests every day that Ringling performed from February 25th to March 6th.
Ringling protest organized by Animals Battalion and LION
In 2016, Ringling announced that the company will terminate the use of elephants in its circus by May and relocate all of the touring elephants to its “Conservation Center” in Florida. Despite pleas from advocacy groups worldwide, the company refuses to send its 42 elephants to a sanctuary. Instead, Ringling intends to continue breeding the elephants and using them for cancer research.
When Ringling Bros. announced plans to eliminate its elephant act in 2018, the company stated it would retire the traveling herd to its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
Animals are trained to perform tricks at a “conservation” center?
To the general public, the center sounds like an idyllic home for the elephants because “conservation” conjures up images of freedom, safety and care. But, for several reasons, Ringling’s facility is the wrong place to retire these elephants:
The “Conservation” Center is the training facility where Ringling “breaks” baby elephants. When babies destined for the circus are born at the center, Ringling trainers kidnap them from their mothers, chain them for up to 22 hours a day and beat them with weapons until they perform circus tricks on command. Ringling is therefore not retiring the elephants to a loving home; they are returning them to the people who broke them and stripped them of everything that makes life worth living. To the elephants, who have very long memories, the Conservation Center is a place that signifies pain, anguish, deprivation, domination, brutality and terror.
Ringling trainers tie down baby elephants and assault them with weapons to break them
Conservation Center employees carry bullhooks, weapons to control the elephants’ behavior. In its own promotional video spinning its training and breeding facility into a “conservation” center, Ringling employees can be seen carrying bullhooks. How can living in constant fear of assault and being surrounded by people who terrorized them constitute a humane retirement?
Employees carry elephant weapons at Ringling’s Center For Elephant Conservation
The Conservation Center is entirely inadequate. Ringling’s facility is closed to the public, and that is probably because the company doesn’t want visitors to see babies being broken and elephants living in small enclosures, often chained on two legs in a concrete barn.
Ringling’s facility is not – and can never be – a sanctuary for the elephants who were abused there
One woman who did manage to see the center posted this video, which shows an elephant swaying in her enclosure — a sign of boredom, frustration and/or grief.
When Ringling stops training elephants for the circus, the company will assuredly find ways to continue exploiting them for profit at its conservation center (after expanding the enclosures) – perhaps through selling tickets for visitors to view them in a zoo-like setting and/or to take elephant rides.
Ringling has always treated its animals like commodities. In fact, they plan to continue forcing the elephants to travel in box cars and perform in circuses until 2018. And they intend to continue using other wild animals in the circus indefinitely. The public should therefore have no reason to believe that, three years from now, Ringling’s owners will suddenly put the elephants’ interests ahead of their own.
In the wild, elephants don’t balance on stools and form “conga lines”
The elephants should be relocated to an accredited sanctuary and placed in the hands of caregivers, not trainers. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has stated it would welcome the Ringling elephants onto its 2,000 acre reserve.
The 2,000 acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would rescue Ringling’s elephants (photo: The Elephant Sanctuary)
The fact that Ringling describes its training and breeding facility as a “conservation” center will be the subject of a future story.
Please sign the petition demanding that Ringling retires its elephants now — not in 2018. Ringling’s facility is not yet equipped to accommodate more elephants, so retiring them now would mean that they could be sent to an accredited sanctuary.
“You’re scaring my child,” said one mother as she passed activists with posters showing abused elephants. She attempted to cover her son’s eyes and ears to protect him from the images and chants, but she only had two hands.
Another mother gave the finger to an activist who showed her an actual bullhook, the weapon used to beat elephants into submission or, as Ringling describes it, an “accepted elephant husbandry tool.”
Braving the elements on behalf of the elephants (photo: Miriam Lucille)
Children look at the images; parents look the other way (photos: Miriam Lucille)
One ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman with seven young children appeared stunned when an activist said, “The Torah prohibits Jews from causing Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim (unnecessary physical or psychological painto any living creature). With a guilty look, she said she “didn’t know” when told that baby elephants are “kidnapped from their mothers” in the circus.
Such were the interactions between protesters and customers during opening night of Ringling Bros. Circus in New York City. Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained was there to report.
If one state lawmaker has his way, elephant performances will banned in New York. In January, Senator Brad Hoylman introduced a bill to prohibit the use of whips, bullhooks and chains on elephants. Without these weapons, Ringling cannot control the elephants, making it impossible to force them to perform.
Bullhooks are weapons used to force animals to perform tricks (photo: Miriam Lucille)
New York would not be the first place to ban circus elephants. In October 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that “the City Council asked the city attorney’s office to prepare an ordinance outlawing the use of the bullhook. Baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks and other implements used on the pachyderms would also be banned.” The ordinance takes effect in 2017. In December 2014, lawmakers in Oakland, California, voted to ban the use of bull hooks, and that law also takes effect in 2017. Elephant acts in circuses are already banned in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Paraguay, Columbia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Elephants perform tricks to avoid punishment.
Elephants are stored in boxcars when traveling between cities (Photo: PETA)
Elephants are among the most intelligent and social animals on the planet. In the wild, they live in herds, raise their children and travel long distances. In captivity, they are deprived of the chance to do anything that comes naturally to them; they live in constant fear; and are stored in cramped boxcars for days at a time while traveling between cities. They are also beaten into submission, as has been documented many times during undercover investigations conducted by animal rights organizations.
Please visit One Green Planet to learn five ways you can help end the use of animals in circuses.
Today, it really is Their Turn! We have three victories to celebrate – each better the next.
First up – Eight female pigs are jumping for joy – literally – because their recent journey from gestation cage to slaughterhouse was pleasantly interrupted by people who liberated them. The brains behind the rescue? A student taking a “swine production” class who fell in love with them. The money? None other than Sam Simon, the Simpsons co-creator who is donating his fortune to animal rights causes.
Next up- the gay bull in Ireland who became an international sensation when his story went viral. As Benjy was being fattened up for a premature slaughter because he wasn’t inseminating female cows, the Irish animal rights group ARAN convinced his owner to sell him. Now, Benjy will live out his remaining years at a luxurious sanctuary, serving as an ambassador to all farm animals. And who’s funding his retirement? A few hundred people made contributions, but Sam Simon swooped in with the big bucks to close the deal.
Last, but not least, lawmakers in Oakland, California, have voted to ban the use of bull hooks, the weapons used by circuses to beat their elephants into submission (see video below). Los Angeles is the only other U.S. city with a bull hook ban. Without these weapons, the monsters at Ringling Bros. will be unable to bring their battered elephants into the city limits. The ban doesn’t go into effect until 2017, but it’s a major victory, and it sets a precedent for other municipalities. Let’s hope that Ringling employees don’t take out their anger on the elephants.
Hit the pause button to celebrate, share and be re-energized by the victories.
Lawmakers in Oakland, California, are considering a ban on bull hooks, a move that would prevent Ringling Bros. from bringing its circus elephants to that city. Bull hooks are weapons used to inflict pain on elephants in order to keep them submissive and obedient.
Four of eight Council Members in Oakland are poised to vote in favor of outlawing bull hooks. One member told the press, “We’re not going to look the other way when it comes to torturing animals.”
Circus elephants are tied down & assaulted with bull hooks at a young age
A spokesperson for Ringling, who describes bull hooks as “USDA-approved husbandry tools,” says that the circus cannot have elephants without them and will not come to Oakland at all if they cannot bring elephants, feeding into the concerns expressed by some Council Members about the economic impact of a ban.
Fear of bull hooks keeps elephants submissive (Photo: Amy Meyer)
In 2013, the Los Angeles City Council passed a law banning bull hooks that takes effect in 2017. The lawmakers made their decision after viewing PETA’s undercover footage of Ringling trainers attacking elephants with bull hooks.
In addition to being beaten, elephants and other wild animals forced to perform in circuses, are deprived of the chance to do anything that comes naturally to them and are forced to travel in small boxcars on trains for days at a time while traveling between cities.
The use of elephants in circuses has already been banned in Bolivia, Peru, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Paraguay, Columbia, the Netherlands. A ban in the United Kingdom goes into effect in 2015.