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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Free to Move About the Country?

Published 06/25/08
By Sandy Haynes, Grassroots Coordinator

Almost nothing instills more fear in me than the term “jaws of life.” Being pinned into the wreckage of my vehicle as firefighters struggle to pull me free before the engine blows and I’m engulfed in flames is one of many of my “worst nightmare”–type moments.

This is why when I read last week that two camels and an elephant, from a traveling circus, had to be pried free from an overturned truck using just such a device my heart beat just a little bit faster. The animals sustained some cuts and bruises, reportedly “minor injuries,” but having been in a car accident before, I know that those “minor injuries” still made my body feel like I’d been used as a punching bag for several days, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Hmmm, perhaps it’s not such a good idea to be carting animals around from city to city every few days throughout the year, eh? At least I get to make a choice whether or not to get in my car, and I get to choose (traffic notwithstanding) how long I’m going to ride around in it before I take a break, stretch my legs, have a drink of water.

Animals in circuses — who are forced to travel around the country from city to city every few days, all year long, in trucks and in train cars — are not so lucky.

And that to me is a form of abuse. Yes, I believe that being chained when they’re not performing, or “supposedly” only while in train cars between cities, is abusive treatment for elephants (as of course is the use of a bullhook to get them to bend to your will).

Okay, so these chains may be likened by some people to a “seat belt,” used so the elephants don’t hurt themselves during the city to city travel — unless of course the train or truck they’re riding in crashes, at which point I suppose all bets are off. But I believe that if I was forced to be in a seatbelt for more than even a few hours without stopping to get out of the car and stretch my legs for even a moment, that I’d go a bit ballistic ... not to mention the fact that I’d be nursing some extremely sore muscles from being stuck in that one position for so long. Ouch!

But imagine having to do this for 26 hours or more at a time ... Double ouch! Yet Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus’s own internal documents show that the elephants are chained for an average of 26 hours at a time and sometimes as much as 100 hours at a time. Whew! I don’t think I have enough ouches to describe that long a trip!

Yes, I’d say that’s a rough life for elephants in the circus. A rough life for all the animals in their little cages travelling around the country for a few moments of so-called entertainment. In fact, this is why there’s a lawsuit pending against Ringling Bros. right now.

Because a wealth of evidence has been amassed to support claims of abuse. Evidence such as video footage of Ringling employees repeatedly hitting elephants with bullhooks; written documentation that an employee saw “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked”; and those internal documents about the chaining I already mentioned.

Let’s hope that soon circus animals have the choice not to move about the country. I have a feeling they’d rather stay put.

Blogging off,


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