Archive for October, 2008

posted by Stacy on Oct 27

                    

The Circus Is Coming To Town, Please Do Not Support Circus Animal Abuse!

Most of us grew up looking forward to the circus coming to town.  The anticipation of the ring master leading in acts of performers, clowns and animals under the big top.  The magical feeling of watching aerial trapeze artists virtually float through the air, packs of clowns zipping around the tent, honking their horns and making us laugh, eating your snacks while seeing enormous elephants doing tricks like the ones we teach our own dogs.  As good as this may sound to you and your little ones there are a few alarming things you should know before purchasing your tickets to the circus again.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus paints a picture of happy animals performing tricks because they like doing them. Consider the following, then decide whether that’s true. Here are some of Ringling’s frequent claims juxtaposed with the facts about the circus’s treatment of animals:

Ringling:
Our training methods are based on continual interaction with our animals, touch and words of praise, and food rewards.
Reality:
Video footage taken between 2001 and 2006 of Ringling trainers and handlers shows that elephants were aggressively hooked, lame elephants were forced to perform and travel, and a trainer inflicted a bloody bullhook wound behind an elephant’s ear flap. Former Ringling employees that left the circus in 2006 and 2007 describe violent beatings as well as the routine abuse of elephants, horses, camels, and zebras.

Ringling:
The ankus (bullhook) is used as an extension of the handler’s arm to guide the elephants.
Reality:
The bullhook, by design, is intended to cause pain and puncture the skin. Despite its appearance, an elephant’s skin is as sensitive as humans’ skin. The sharp metal hook on the end of the bullhook bruises, punctures, and tears elephants’ skin easily and often. Former Ringling animal crew employees report that the circus keeps a bag of topsoil handy to cover up bloody bullhook wounds on elephants.

Ringling:
Ringling is a leading expert in the care of Asian elephants. Our staff is dedicated to meeting our animals’ physical and behavioral needs.
Reality:
Ringling’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports are riddled with serious citations of problems that directly impact animal welfare. In 2006 alone, the circus was cited three times for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to a disabled elephant, to an elephant with a large swelling on her rear leg, and to a camel with bloody wounds. Also in 2006, Ringling was cited for causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and discomfort to two young elephants who sustained cuts and abrasions when they ran amok in an arena in Puerto Rico; improper handling of dangerous animals; and an enclosure in disrepair.

Ringling:
Ringling has never been adjudged to have violated the Animal Welfare Act.
Reality:
Ringling attempts to confuse the issue with legal terminology. The USDA refers to a citation on an inspection report as a “noncompliance” rather than a “violation.” Each citation by the USDA is an indication that federal inspectors found that Ringling Bros. is failing to comply with the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.

In addition to being cited on inspection reports, Ringling has also been warned by the USDA for causing trauma and stress to two baby elephants who suffered painful rope lesions when they were prematurely pulled from their mothers and for improper euthanasia after a caged tiger was shot to death. Ringling also paid a $20,000 penalty to settle USDA charges of failing to provide veterinary care to a sick baby elephant who died shortly after he was forced to perform.

Ringling:
All circuses are subject to stringent animal welfare regulations at the local, state, and federal level.
Reality:
No agency monitors training sessions, in which animals may be beaten behind the scenes. Most state and local agencies defer to the already overburdened USDA for matters concerning exotic animals in circuses. The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has no regulations that specifically pertain to elephants. For example, space requirements for animals ranging from elephants to zebras simply state, “Enclosures shall … provide sufficient space to allow each animal to make normal postural and social adjustments.” Ringling consistently opposes proposed laws that would ban cruel training methods, such as bullhooks and the chaining of elephants. Although inspections by the USDA are supposed to be unannounced, several former Ringling employees claim that the circus always knows in advance when inspectors are coming.

Ringling:
Our staff are experts in their fields.
Reality:
Staff caring for animals in circuses may have little experience or formal training, increasing the potential for improper handling. Ringling regularly hires inexperienced people, some directly out of homeless shelters, and allows them to work with animals.

Ringling:
Ringling is attempting to save endangered Asian elephants from extinction.
Reality:
Ringling breeds elephants solely to perform in its circus. None of Ringling’s elephants can ever be released to the wild. Of the approximately 62 elephants owned by Ringling in 1990, 57 were captured in the wild. And at least 24 elephants have died since 1992. Ringling has not been successful in breeding more elephants than it has captured and imported for use in its traveling show, and its elephants are dying at a faster rate than they are breeding. Ringling routinely pulls unweaned elephants from their mothers to train them and put them on the road.

Ringling:
The animal routines in our circus showcase our animals’ natural behaviors.
Reality:
In nature, elephants don’t stand on their heads, walk trunk-to-tail, skip, crawl, or twirl, and adult female elephants do not mount one another. Tigers don’t hop on their hind legs and roll over in unison. In order to force wild animals to perform difficult and confusing circus tricks, trainers use whips, sticks, and bullhooks.

Ringling:
The public display of exotic and endangered animals contributes to a heightened awareness of humans’ responsibility to safeguard and protect these animals.
Reality:
According to David Hancocks, former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, “When [circuses] portray animals as freaks and curiosities, devoid of context or dignity, circuses are perpetuating outdated attitudes. Wild animals in the circus are reduced to mere caricatures of their kind, exhibited just for financial gain. In this way, they corrupt our children, promoting the notion that exploitation and degradation is acceptable, even brave or funny.”

Ringling:
We operate a 200-acre state-of-the-art facility dedicated to breeding, research, and retirement of Asian elephants.
Reality:
The elephants at Ringling’s breeding compound in Florida only have access to a fraction of the property. When they are not chained, the elephants are confined to barns and small, barren outdoor paddocks. Ringling’s Williston, Fla., facility—also referred to as its retirement center—has several elephants who are infected with or exposed to a human strain of tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). In September 2006, two male elephants at its breeding center also tested positive for TB and three female elephants were pulled off the road because they had been exposed to diseased elephants.

Ringling:
Our elephant care practices are in line with those set out in the “Elephant Husbandry Resource Guide” published by the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) with the support of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Elephant Managers Association (EMA).
Reality:
As a founding board member of the IEF, Ringling helped develop the “Elephant Husbandry Resource Guide.” Ringling may have felt a need to develop this guide because the circus does not comply with the existing AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care. Ringling does not provide its elephants on the road with AZA’s minimum space requirements, and the elephants are subjected to prolonged chaining.

Ringling:
Ringling Bros. elephants are healthy, thriving, vigorous, and content.
Reality:
The USDA has noted on Ringling inspection reports that some of the circus’s elephants suffer from lameness, foot abscesses, and arthritis. At least eight of the 24 elephant deaths at Ringling since 1992 were attributable to either osteoarthritis or a chronic foot problem—a common problem in captive elephants caused by lack of space and forced inactivity. In a book titled The Elephant’s Foot, former Ringling veterinarian Gary West contributed a chapter about foot care. West wrote, “Foot-related conditions and arthritis are the leading cause of euthanasia in captive elephants in the United States.”

What can you do to help?  It’s as easy as not supporting animal abuse!  No ticket sales = No Abuse!

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