This week a story in the Washington Post brought to light cruel and unusual training methods used on baby elephants at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which is run under Feld Entertainment.
Former elephant handler Sam Haddock came forward to deliver shocking photographs and a notarized report of his 18 years of experience training baby elephants at Ringling’s breeding center in Florida to PETA before passing away last month.
“This is the first time that the violent training methods used on baby elephants have been exposed in the United States, and with the biggest circus in the country,” said Debbie Leahy, director of captive animals rescue and enforcement for PETA.
“When someone like Sam Haddock says there’s a problem with what’s going on here, it’s from the perspective of someone who lived through it and participated in it. . . . It totally contradicts what the circus has been telling the public for years.”
Haddock recounted methods such as using ropes to pull a baby elephants off balance, while using bullhooks on their heads to teach them to lie down.
With the goal of having Feld’s exhibitors license revoked, PETA has since filed a complaint with the USDA claiming that the evidence shows violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which Ringling, of course, disputes.
As the Post’s article also points out, this wasn’t someone who was working undercover. It was just a man taking photos of every day life at work. Haddock also cited himself as being an abuser. At the end of his report he stated that, “”Toward the end of my career . . . I stopped telling people what I did for a living. I was ashamed.”
As In Defense of Animals (IDA) points out, “While the photos of baby elephants tug at our hearts, every elephant performing in circuses today has endured the heartbreak and trauma exposed by Mr. Haddock and his photos. Whether kidnapped from their mothers in the wild, as most were, or born into captivity, every one of these elephants was torn from his or her mother, enduring unspeakable anguish and trauma as a result. As if that weren’t horrific enough, they were then subjected to brutal training, and they continue to be controlled through deprivation, restraint and fear of violent punishment.”
IDA has filed similar complaints with the USDA and is also currently fighting for baby elephants, like two and a half year old baby Val who has been performing for the Carson and Barnes Circus for about a year now.
To learn more and take action for elephants like baby Val, visit www.helpelephants.com
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