Animal group calls on circus to “keep the rings, lose the chains”
Birmingham, AL — As Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus (Ringling) touts the arrival of its “all-new” ring-less performance, the Animal Protection Institute (API) tells Ringling to keep the rings, lose the chains and release endangered Asian elephants from the rigors and abuse of performing in the circus.
For years Ringling has claimed its animals are treated like cherished family members, but its record of animal deaths and mistreatment tells a different story. From choosing monetary settlements in lieu of USDA administrative hearings into its animal care practices when charged with animal welfare deficiencies to repeated videotaped incidents depicting animal cruelty, Ringling’s claims of superior animal care ring false.
“Ringling’s new show makes many attempts to deflect growing public criticism of its mistreatment of elephants,” says Michelle Thew, API’s Chief Executive Officer. “But anyone with common sense knows you don’t train a 10,000-pound elephant to stand on its head by giving it a peanut. It is done with force and intimidation. Ringling’s all-new show is sadly nothing different for the elephants.”
Throughout the fragmented show, Ringling repeatedly touts its commitment to conserving Asian elephants via its Center for Elephant Conservation. Ringling fails to mention that 4 of the 19 elephants whose births it brags of are dead (a mortality rate of 21 percent) and that it is currently the subject of a federal investigation into one of those deaths. Ringling also neglects to inform audiences that its commitment to conservation extends only to breeding elephants to be used in its circus shows. Ringling has never released an elephant to the wild.
Other changes to Ringling’s show include obviously orchestrated attempts to mislead the public about the treatment of elephants in the circus. ‘Jive-talking’ computer-enhanced elephants are shown on a large screen throughout the performance. These pseudo-elephants trivialize the rigors of life in the circus. Highly social elephants endure near-constant chaining, confinement while traveling, and painful training methods which include use of bullhooks, not the fun and games the computer-enhanced elephants seem to suggest. In one particularly disturbing segment, a doctored image of an elephant swinging by its trunk from a trapeze is portrayed as an example of the role elephants used to play in the circus — as if the indignity of their current role is any different.
“Ringling is obviously concerned that the truth about its animal care will be exposed. Then consumers will finally have the power to make informed decisions about what kinds of companies they give their hard-earned money — and their children’s hearts — to,” says Thew.
In October 2005, API petitioned to join the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Fund for Animals, and Animal Welfare Institute in a lawsuit against Ringling and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, for violating the Endangered Species Act through the circus’s misuse and mistreatment of endangered Asian elephants.
API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.
DVD b-roll of Ringling animal mistreatment and still photos of chained Ringling elephants are available upon request.
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute (API), 916-447-3085 x205