Abuse at the Circus: Disturbing Undercover PETA Video Alleges Elephant and Tiger Abuse

Asian Elephant

Earlier this week, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released undercover video footage showing employees of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus allegedly abusing elephants and tigers.

The abuse, caught on tape by an undercover PETA investigator, allegedly occurred in seven different states across America over several months. The footage shows handlers allegedly whipping and beating 11 circus elephants in the face, chest, ears and legs with bullhooks.  


Bullhooks are long poles with a sharp metal point or hook used to pull and lead elephants by the trunk. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers specific information and guidelines for training elephants with bullhooks, also known as guides or ankus.   According to the Welfare Implications of Elephant Training guidelines, “However the use of the guide, during routine training, in a manner that causes physical harm to the elephant, is not considered acceptable”  and recommends the device only be used to produce “light physical contact.”

Asian Elephant and BabyParent company Feld Entertainment, released a statement regarding the allegations, “Ringling Bros. is a licensed traveling exhibitor and from January through June of this year, the alleged time covered in the video, this particular Unit was found to be in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.”

While some elephants are born on breeding farms, many were captured in the wild, torn from their mothers. The 11 elephants in question ranged from 12 to 52 years of age.

PETA has filed a complaint with the USDA.  An online petition addressed to the Secretary of Agriculture asking for immediate seizure of the elephants is available on Facebook to help rescue the elephants.  Nearly 17,000 signatures have been collected to date.

The disturbing video, over four minutes long, can be seen below.


Asian elephant photo courtesy of Barbara Piuma under Creative Commons license.

Asian elephant and baby photo courtesy of SuperJew under Creative Commons license.

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