USDA: Remove the Collapsing Elephant from the Ringling Bros. Circus | LA County: Cancel Cruel Elephant Rides
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1. Background | From Change
On the night of August 6, as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus loaded a 53-year-old performing elephant named Sarah onto a boxcar, she fell and collapsed on the ground.
The circus says the fall was accidental, and Sarah is perfectly healthy. In fact, she’s never missed a performance.
But just two months ago, the USDA cited Ringling for violating the Animal Welfare Act by failing to treat this same elephant’s chronic medical problem, which could be fatal if neglected.
Sarah has a pus-like discharge in her urine, and an elevated white cell count. Ringling maintains it’s a just a chronic condition that’s of no concern. Per the USDA inspection report, Sarah’s handlers did nothing to treat the infection.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) has filed a formal complaint with the USDA, asking for Sarah to be removed from the circus. ADI’s Campaign Director, Matt Rossell, said, “Sarah is sick, and the stress and fatigue has likely led to this dangerous fall.”
In its own statement, Ringling’s parent company criticized ADI’s allegations, calling them “not only false but grossly out of context,” and accused ADI of manipulating the incident merely to further its agenda.
Last month, Danielle Graham, director of veterinary services for the circus, contended that Sarah was healthy, and the USDA citation was “basically a difference of veterinarian opinions.”
In its steadfast insistence that a sick animal is healthy and by forcing Sarah to continue performing, it is clear that Ringling is only interested in making money and has little concern for the elephant’s welfare.
It’s time for Sarah to stop being forced to perform handstands and instead get the medical attention she needs. Sign the petition asking Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senate Ag Committee Chair, and Robert M. Gibbens, USDA’s Western Regional Director, to remove Sarah from the circus.
Related | What Circus Animals Can’t Tell You
2. Background | From PETA
Organizers of the Los Angeles County Fair are planning to have elephant rides provided by the company Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), despite learning about video evidence that the company abuses elephants.
In video footage recently released by Animal Defenders International, trainers with HTWT can be seen forcing elephants to perform by shocking them with electric prods in the belly and genital area and striking them with bullhooks—sharp, metal-tipped weapons that resemble fireplace pokers and can leave painful welts, abscesses, and puncture wounds on elephants’ sensitive skin. In the video footage, a baby elephant cries out in pain each time he is hit on the head and jabbed in his sensitive mouth with a bullhook.
The behind-the-scenes beatings continue throughout the elephants’ lives and leave the animals fearful and intimidated, allowing handlers to maintain control over them. When leading elephants used for rides, HTWT handlers are never without their bullhooks—tools that the elephants associate with pain and that remind them what will happen if they behave in a way the handler doesn’t like.
Please take a moment to write to James E. Henwood, president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to urge them to cancel the elephant rides at the L.A. County Fair immediately. If you are an L.A. County resident or if you have a few extra moments to make this letter more personal, please feel free to alter the text in a respectful manner before sending it. Personalized letters carry more weight.
Related: Humane Societies Call for Ringling Boycott
Citing Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ constant abuse of animals, several influential California humane societies—the Marin Humane Society, the East Bay SPCA, the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, and the Sacramento SPCA—are publicly calling for a boycott of the circus, asking families to stay away from Ringling performances scheduled for the San Francisco Bay Area over the next few weeks.
The elephants used in this production—three of whom are 50 and older—are forced to perform the same silly, repetitive, and uncomfortable tricks year after year. Assan and Baby were born in Asia, were taken from their families, and have been used by Ringling for more than 40 years. At the end of the circus’s recent run in Los Angeles, an elephant named Sarah, a 54-year-old wild-captured elephant with a history of infection, about whom we have complained, collapsed while being loaded into a railroad car.
Kudos to these humane societies for taking a firm stand against blatant animal abuse. Please, ask your local humane society to follow their example by publicly asking families to stay away from Ringling Bros. Circus and never patronize a circus that uses live animals. Contact our Action Team for help.
Written by Jennifer O’Connor
International Animal-Free Circuses
ringling your ears must be tingling
and LA county too
we are watching out for elephants
and we are watching you!!!!
Karen Lyons Kalmenson