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For Immediate Release: 05/06/09

Embattled circus rolls into Philadelphia

Ringling admits pervasive use of cruel bullhooks and chains on beloved circus elephants

Philadelphia, PA —The recent federal trial of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus (Ringling) revealed shocking evidence of routine mistreatment of elephants in the circus. As the circus prepares to open May 13 in Philadelphia, Born Free USA, a plaintiff in the trial, is asking Philadelphia residents to review the evidence before buying a ticket that supports animal cruelty.

“This groundbreaking trial uncovered clear evidence that Ringling Bros. violates the Endangered Species Act — which states it is illegal to harm, wound or harass an endangered species — by routinely striking, punishing and chaining elephants,” said Nicole Paquette, Esq., senior vice president and general counsel for Born Free USA, who was also a witness in the trial. “The evidence, from Ringling’s own employees, its CEO, and its medical records, is crystal clear: Ringling’s treatment of elephants is inhumane.”

“Philadelphia is a progressive city and we hope its citizens will send a clear message that they don’t support animal abuse by refusing to buy a ticket,” added Paquette.

The case against Ringling exposed the following:

  • An independent examination of Ringling’s medical records, by a Board-certified retired veterinarian from the San Diego Zoo, corroborates plaintiffs’ claims that elephants suffer injuries and scarring from bullhook strikes and foot injuries, and lameness from being continually chained. In fact, the evidence revealed that 100% of Ringling’s adult elephants suffer from some form of silment relating to prolonged chaining on hard surfaces.
  • Ringling’s transportation records proved plaintiffs’ claims that elephants, both in the circus and at Ringling’s Florida breeding center, spend extensive amounts of time being chained. These records documented elephants being chained for up to 100 consecutive hours in cramped circus railroad cars.
  • Kenneth Feld, President of Ringling’s parent company, admitted “all elephant handlers at Ringling strike elephants with bullhooks” and stated he’s seen handlers hit elephants under the chin and behind the ears with a bullhook.
  • Ringling’s animal behaviorist reported “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked.
  • In internal emails, a Ringling veterinary assistant reported that “[a]fter this morning’s baths, at least 4 of the elephants came in with multiple abrasions and lacerations from the hooks.” “The lacerations were very visible ... (a handler) applied wonder dust just before the show.” Wonder dust is used to stop the bleeding of a wound and it is charcoal in color which covers up the spot from public view.

“Ringling constantly compares their training, confinement and handling tactics to those the average individual would use on a dog, yet their own statements and documents prove the exact opposite: elephants endure a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the circus,” added Paquette.

Born Free USA is a leading national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally. More information is available at www.bornfreeusa.org. Details on the trial against Ringling Bros. circus, including trial documents and exhibits, can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org/ringling.


Nicole Paquette, Born Free USA, 916-622-7170

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