Elephants in the Circus

Elephants in the Circus



“Having worked with actors for many years it’s hard for me to believe that anyone would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into show business. But for the elephants in Ringling Brothers and other circuses, that’s exactly what happens.” These are Alec Baldwin’s words when interviewed by PETA in regards to elephants’ being abused in circuses.

The Barnum and Bailey circus and The Ringling Brothers’ circus are the two most famous circuses in America today. They have been using elephants in their performances since about the 1880’s. Their original intentions were to just showcase the elephants, such as Jumbo. This started in 1897 and lasted till 1902, according to the Barnum & Bailey Circus history.

The first elephant was introduced to the circus in 1812 in New York. Elephants have been being taken from Asia and other countries for over 204 years. The babies are ripped from their mothers at 21 months, even though in the wild female elephants stay with their mothers all of their lives. Elephants’ lifespans in the wild are on average 60 years, the oldest on record was 86 years old. However, in captivity elephants live to be only an average of 17 years old.

Throughout the generations of elephants being used in the circus, there have been whispers of the trainers abusing them.

In 2011, a three-year old baby Asian elephant, Kenny, was sick on the night he was to perform his usual tricks for the audience. He would not drink or eat the was provided the day before. The attendants where the elephants were chained alerted the vet. Under federal law sick elephants are to be checked and treated immediately, before performing. For Kenny neither of the two were done, he trotted out to the ring like he was supposed to. During the afternoon show Kenny started bleeding from his bottom and afterward struggled to stand. Kenny was later prescribed antibiotics and the vet suggested he skip the evening show. Kenny attended the evening show even though he was to weak to perform and he passed away later that night covered in his own blood.

This is normal for The Ringling Brothers’ circus. Since Ringling has had elephants in their circus 30 have died of unknown reasons.

      Similar to Kenny, an 8 month old baby elephant named Riccardo was euthanized. The first time the elephant was being trained to use the tub he broke his legs. The main trainer at the time was trying to get the elephant on a twenty four inch tub, which is taller than the elephant’s legs to begin with. When a trainer brought the elephant to the vet they euthanized him. That trainer stated “I was never interviewed by the USDA about Riccardo’s death. None of my colleagues who were present when Riccardo died ever mentioned being questioned by the USDA in relation to his death.”

Furthermore, most recently there was a two year old elephant named Mike. Mike passed away on Monday January 25, 2016 from a preventable virus. Mike was the youngest baby elephant being held at Ringling’s training facility in Florida. Mike is the fifth youngest elephant to die on Ringling’s watch.

Other ailments plague circus elephants. Elephants in the circus get arthritis from the tricks. They become depressed. They become unnecessarily obese, and develop sores from their to small cages. When elephants are depressed and anxious they usually bow their head and sway.

Due to persistence from PETA and other concerned citizens. Ringling will be ending all elephant performances by May of 2016. Though this is good news, it is not good for the elephants that have to be transferred to the Center for Elephant Conservation. “They will be shackled to the train cars for days on their way to the center,” according to PETA.