Ringling’s Elephants Finally Get Their Day In Court

We’ve all heard jokes about courtroom’s turning into circuses, but last week Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus actually went on trial in federal court to defend its elephant-abusing ways. Several groups, namely the ASPCA and the Animal Welfare Institute, filed a lawsuit against the circus, claiming that it violates the Endangered Species Act by chaining elephants by the legs, often for days at a time, and beating them with sharp metal bullhooks. 


Tom Rider, a former barn man for Ringling Bros. and a plaintiff in the case, says that he witnessed elephant abuse on numerous occasions during his employment with the circus, including one time when a trainer beat an elephant with a bullhook for 30 minutes.

Elephants do not voluntarily perform stressful, physically strenuous maneuvers many times a day. “Trainers” use bullhooks and other cruel tools to intimidate elephants and force them to perform silly, dangerous tricks. Although elephant skin looks tough, it’s actually very sensitive, especially on the top of the ear, underneath the jaw, inside the leg, and the back and front of the lower leg. Ray Ryan, a former elephant handler who has since written Keepers of the Ark: An Elephant’s View of Captivity, points out that elephant trainers are taught to use a bullhook to inflict pain in these areas.

When Ringling Bros. was in Austin in 2006, a trainer struck an elephant with a bullhook causing a bloody wound the size of a quarter behind the elephant’s left earflap. (Video footage of the beating can be seen on www.PETATV.com.) Troy Metzler, another elephant handler with Ringling Bros., allegedly abuses elephants with bullhooks so often that the crew gave him the nickname “Captain Hook.”

Archele Hundley, another former Ringling Bros. employee, who has narrated an anti-circus pubic service announcement for PETA, says she repeatedly saw elephants and other animals being abused during the two months she worked for Ringling. Hundley repeatedly complained to the circus management about the abuse, but they never took action, so she quit in disgust. Bob Tom, another Ringling employee, who worked on the same unit for two years, was allegedly fired for complaining about the beatings.

Ringling Bros. may put on an animal-loving front and tout their captive elephant breeding program as “conservation” programs, but they serve no benefit to the survival of the species as none of the offspring can be returned to the wild. Forcing elephants to perform unnatural tricks does little to educate people about their natural behavior. Ringling Bros. is simply attempting to replenish its dwindling supply of elephant “performers”—at least 25 of Ringling’s elephants have died since 1992. (You can read about the circumstances behind the deaths at http://www.circuses.com/pdfs/RinglingFactsheet.pdf.)

No one who cares about elephants would employ chains and shackles to confine them; help defeat legislation designed to limit the number of hours per day that elephants can be chained; and fight proposed laws banning cruel training methods. Ringling Bros. has done all these things and more.

Whatever the official verdict of the trial is, the overwhelming evidence proves that Ringling Bros. is guilty of elephant abuse, and the circus should no longer be able to sweep it behind the curtain.




W. C
W. Cabout a year ago


William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you for caring.

Robin Rootes
Robin R7 years ago

We need to do more to get the truth behind circus animal abuse out to the general public - especially to parents of small children. Too many people choose not to acknowledge the horrible treatment of the animals in circuses because they want to experience the happy facade with their children. Reality is harsh and people need to do what we can to prevent animal abuse instead of turning a blind eye on the real situation in front of us.

mary l.
mary l7 years ago

Boycott ALL circuses. These people need to be put out of business.

Jay Simms
Jay Simms7 years ago

I would like to see a ban on all animals used for entertainment. In a perfect world, we should by now be intelligent enough to understand that non-human animals are sentient beings and deserve understanding and respect. The dictionary defines animals as beasts, brutes and creatures referring to animals with four legs. In my opinion, this definition belongs to many homo sapiens who have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they are the beasts, brutes and creatures. Hopefully, one day when society is governed solely by persons gifted with wisdom, empathy and common sense, will the animals receive the understanding and treatment they deserve.

Deborah W.
Deborah w7 years ago

I agree. free the elephants and don't go to circuses or entertainment complexes that use animals in their shows.

It is cruel what they do to them and it has to stop.

I won't go to a circus or SeaWorld places now.

Diane B.
Dee B9 years ago

You have to wonder about the kind of people that are employed by circuses. They all know what's going on with the animals, yet it continues. I always thought circus people were of that segment of society deemed " creepy people you don't want to know".

Janis Totham-Davies

I have never gone to a Circus in my life and I never will. It was very obvious to me as a child that it was so wrong to be treating animals in this way. In this day and age it is quite ridiculous that we allow animal circuses to continue. They should have been banned decades ago. So now is the time to put a stop to this once and for all.

If no one goes to animal circuses it would stop pretty quickly. So come on America wake up and refuse to see animals treated in this way. NO MORE ANIMAL CIRCUSES IN AMERICA.

As for the Ringling Brothers they must be heavily fined, and I think prison is very fitting in this case. Their elephants that have suffered so very much in their sadistic cruel hands, must be removed to a sanctuary where they can live out their lives as a family should in peace. The Ringling Brothers must never be allowed to own any animals of any kind. All their animals must be taken away for good.

Lana R.
Lana R10 years ago

To put any animal in chains says a lot about some people and those that go to see any circus, and we call ourselves a christian nation, oh please go look in a mirror, you won't like what you see. The only way to stop this cruelty is to boycott fairs and circus's around the country. I am 62 and don't believe I have ever been to either because of the way the poor animals are treated, so why would any normal person pay to witness this overall abuse. How can anyone be so stupid to say "how can anyone abuse an elephant", can you spell chains, electrical prods and bull hooks ? I really dislike stupid people ! This is for Richelle R

Kenneth Madore
Kenneth Madore10 years ago

It' just not circuses it' lcoal fairs and zoos too. I myself saw elephant abuse when I was 16. I was on my way to a fair in my home town, Augusta Maine.This man kept hitting this poor elephant with some electric fork thing. I was furious I jumped the fence grabbed that fork thing and gave him the most shocking experience of his life. My foster parents were mad as hell when they picked me up at the police station,but wasn't shocked Because my step farther beat my collie to death in front of me for not doing the dishes. I really hate these people. especially bush gardens, Walt Disney and Sea World the three largest animal exploiters in the us. It's all about the money people and as long as the money keeps flowing our capitalistic government will tern a blind eye.