Despite the growing public concern about the use of wild animals in circuses and entertainment, thousands are still forced to perform unnatural tricks in order to entertain the public and earn their ‘owners’ money. They are used in circuses, side-shows, in zoos and also in film and television.
The stunts and tricks that animals are forced to perform are completely unnatural to them and training will have involved physical domination and fear. There are many reports from ex-trainers of the systematic mistreatment and abuse of animals.
Transportation from location to location will be in small wagons or trucks, where the animals will be chained up. Animals in the film industry will be confined in small cages until needed for a take. The confined and unnatural environment, often without access to others of their species and living in a regime of fear and abuse, causes extreme distress to wild animals. Often they will have been taken from the wild and will have been separated from their families.
The Born Free Foundation raises awareness of the abuse of animals used in entertainment and campaigns for national and international legislation to bring this practice to an end.
Ringling Circus is particularly well known for its brutality.
Former Ringling employees have reported that elephants are routinely abused and violently beaten with bullhooks. In December 2009, PETA released dozens of photographs taken by a retired Ringling trainer named Sam Haddock. The photos reveal the violent training methods used on baby elephants at Ringling’s Polk City, Florida, training center. The photos, which are available at RinglingBeatsAnimals.com, depict baby elephants bound with ropes and wrestled into physically difficult and uncomfortable positions by several adult men. According to Haddock’s sworn statement, the elephants scream, cry, and struggle as they are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods. According to him, these violent training methods are the only way that an elephant can be trained to perform in circuses. Elephants are also chained in filthy, poorly ventilated boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours straight—and as long as 60 to 100 hours at a time—when the circus travels.
Read more on Ringling Circus.
This heartbreaking image captures Tyke the elephant’s last moments on earth on 20th August 1994. She had finally had enough after years of being chained up and beaten and forced to perform in the circus for most of her life. In her panicked bid for freedom she accidentally killed a trainer and injured a groomer. She was shot dead with 87 bullets. Elephants are particularly emotional and compassionate animals, very similar to humans. What she must have gone through is too harrowing to imagine. You can watch footage of her last minutes here www.youtube.com courtesy of PETA.
Image used courtesy of One World Wildlife