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For Immediate Release: 06/23/09

Trial Evidence of Animal Abuse Haunts Circus as It Rolls into Fresno

Fresno, CA — 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 July 1 in Fresno, California-based Born Free USA, a plaintiff in the trial, is asking Fresno 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.”

“When it comes to animals, California is a truly progressive state and we hope the Fresno community will send the clear message that it doesn’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 ailment 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.”

“Ringling constantly compares its training, confinement, and handling tactics to those the average individual would use on a dog, yet its 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, 916-622-7170, nicole@bornfreeusa.org

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