Nastiest Show on Earth
Most circuses, including Ringling Bros. Greatest Show on Earth, claim that they treat elephants and all animals in the circus in a humane and loving way. On the Ringling Bros. website they explain the care of the animals as, “the animal care professionals at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® believe that a positive, healthy environment is the only acceptable and successful method of working with animals” (Ringling Bros. 2015). They claim the only way to get the animals to perform successfully is to allow them time spent with their mother and reward them with positive phrases as they train. “Trainers teach animals routines that showcase their physical abilities and beauty, as well as their distinctive behaviors. Our training methods are based on reinforcement in the form of food rewards and words of praise” (Ringling Bros. 2015). They are very clear when they explain that each of the animals in the circus are thoroughly cared for and not abused in any way. When the circus trainers teach they young calves the routines they are “tailored to each animal’s natural abilities and individual preferences which we observe during their playtime” (Ringling Bros. 2015). Basically, Ringling Bros. is claiming that each of the elephants routines are only enforcing their acts that they would normally perform in the wild as well.
If elephants are treated like family and only trained through humane tactics why do they not allow fans to watch the training process? This would surely be much more entertaining for viewers than watching elephants stand on one leg. There has to be something circuses are hiding from the public. Ringling Bros. makes a strong case that positive phrases and treats may successfully train some animals like dogs, or cats. Elephants on the other hand are wild animals that are meant to roam up to thirty miles a day and be close with their family of elephants. Some elephants that perform in the circus can weigh up to 7,000 pounds and usually tower over any trainer trying to dominate the animal. When circus handlers attempt to train animals of that immense size solely positive phrases and treats simply just do not cut it. Elephant trainers are constantly being accused of abusing the elephants by bounding their legs with chains and using bullhooks to get the elephants to cooperate. This makes more sense because to get the elephant to follow the routine they must be abused because of their immense size and nature. “The wild animals fare the worst, and elephants top the list in the inherent cruelty that circus animals experience, simply because their size makes transport and housing so confining and unnatural for them. Their training protocols are geared to ensure that the public will never see the underlying abuse, and therefore circus owners remain assured of their wide profit margin after each city stopover” (Humane Review 2012). It is inevitable for circuses to train elephants in harsh ways due to their size, this is the reason that elephants need to be kept out of shows.
A former Ringling Bros. employee, Archele Hundley, speaks out after viewing years of circus trainers mistreating the animals. Hundley teamed up with PETA to make a change when he could not take hearing the agonizing screams from the elephants as they were beaten bloody with bullhooks on a daily basis. He explains to PETA, “I saw handlers deliver a beating … for 30 minutes. She was covered with bloody wounds. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams…Please, never take your children to a Ringling Bros. circus” (Hundley 2015). Knowing an employee quit his job and felt it necessary to speak out to put an end to the circus shows just how powerful and cruel these beatings are. It is also disheartening that these beatings are not just once in a while, or when the animal acts out. The beatings are administered daily from a range of people, “The abuse was not just once in a while—it occurred every day,” says Hundley. “The elephants, horses, and camels were hit, punched, beaten, and whipped by everyone from the head of animal care down to inexperienced animal handlers hired out of homeless shelters” (Hundley 2015). These animals do not have a voice and can not stand up for themselves, this is why we must be their voice.
What circus owners do not tell the public is how each individual elephant is “broken” in order to learn each routine. Trainers “positively” use abusive tactics in order to break the elephant. An animal activist group explains this process as, “All four of their legs are tied together so that all they can do for up to 23 hours a day for up to six months is stand on a concrete floor…this is emotionally and physically devastating to a young elephant” (Peta 2015). By tying the elephant’s legs together it is preventing the elephant’s natural desire to walk and roam. This is the opposite of the Ringling Bros. claim which states that their acts only enforce the elephants natural acts. Also, Ringling Bros. claims that elephants stay with their mothers for the first two years of their life to adjust to the world. Animal Rights activists prove that claim wrong when they expose the heart wrenching process that goes into the birth of a elephant calf. They explain, “the very young babies taken from their mothers early so that they can learn the fear of humans and the pain that human handlers can inflict at a very early age, while our species is still able to dominate them” (Humane Review 2012). This is the only way that the circus trainers can implement dominance over the young elephants, and maintain it throughout their lives.
If Ringling Bros. along with any other circus used humane tactics to train these wild gigantic animals they would feel no need to hide the training process from the public. They claim they use positivity to train and domesticate the animals simply for the profit the circus shows bring in. When in reality elephants are being tortured on a daily basis to perform unnatural acts. We are feeding into it by attending and giving our money to circuses and zoos, this is why the public needs to be aware of the brutality that goes on behind the scenes so that elephants can be free to roam in the wild at last.
“The Circus — A Nightmare for Elephants.” The Circus – A Nightmare For Animals (2012): 1-4. Humane Review. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
“Animal Care FAQ.” Animal Care FAQ. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Sheridan, Judy L. “Ringmaster Defends Elephant Care: Kelly Miller Circus Comes to Aledo.” Weatherford Democrat. N.p., 16 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
PETA. “Former Ringling Bros. Employee Speaks Out Against Abuse.” PETA. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.