In recent years, several former employees of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus have been shedding light on the way elephants are mistreated under the Big Top – the animals are "broken," "trained," and "disciplined" with sharp metal bull hooks, and kept on chains for most of their lives. Other members of the public have captured the mistreatment on videotape, as the circus arrives in their cities and towns.

These accounts of mistreatment and abuse have spurred people throughout the country to speak up on behalf of the elephants. One prominent spokesman was Tom Rider, who worked for the circus for two and a half years from 1997 to 1999. The Wildlife Advocacy Project has supported efforts to educate the public about how circus elephants are really treated and to dispel the myths perpetuated by these extremely profitable circuses.

Click here to see live footage of Ringling Brothers' mistreatment of elephants on You Tube (or click on video player below). To learn more about elephants, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and efforts to protect elephants from abuse keep reading.

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... More on Ringling Brothers and Circus Elephants:


About Asian Elephants

Asian Elephants, the elephant species most often used by circuses, are endangered in the wild, due to poaching, hunting, and the destruction of their natural habitat. They are listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits anyone from "killing," "harming," or "harassing" them. To learn more click here.


About Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Dubbed the "Cruelest Show on Earth" by many animal advocates, Ringling Brothers has three traveling circuses: the "Red" and "Blue" Units, and the "Gold Unit" or "Hometown Edition." It also has both a breeding and retirement facility for the elephants it uses in it's circus. To learn more click here.


Tools of the Circus Trade

The cruel way in which circus elephants are broken, trained, disciplined, and transported are all indicative of a life of misery in the circus. To learn more click here.


Elephant Mistreatment At Ringling Brothers

As described by several former Ringling Brothers employees, there is a culture of abuse at the circus that includes the constant use of bull hooks and other weapons on the elephants, and routine chaining while the elephants are transported throughout the country to perform. The animals perform between 48-50 weeks each year, with up to 3 performances a day. They are chained in box cars while traveling from town to town, chained all night long, and chained for most of the day. The mistreatment occurs with both adult and baby elephants. To learn more click here.


Baby Elephants Are Also Mistreated

From the time they are born at Ringling Brothers' breeding facility, the baby elephants are torn away from their mothers, trained with bull hooks to perform tricks in the circus, and kept on chains. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has concluded that Ringling Brothers' routine "separation" of baby elephants from their mothers – using ropes around their legs to forcibly remove the nursing babies from their mothers – causes the young elephants "trauma, behavorial stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort." In recent years, at least four baby elephants have died prematurely while under Ringling Brothers' care. To learn more click here.


Circus Myths

Circuses with animals are still around today because of several myths they perpetuate to convince the public that this is a harmless "all-American" activity. To learn more click here.


What you can do

While the infamous founder of Ringling Brothers circus, P.T. Barnum, boasted that "there's a sucker born every minute," it is up to the public to learn the truth about what goes on behind the Big Top. To learn more click here.


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