PETA has revealed its latest undercover investigation of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and video footage shows that elephants were whipped across the face and ears and beaten with metal bullhooks. If you're not familiar with bullhooks, they're basically cruel tools used to punish and control elephants.
Bullhooks have handles made of wood or metal and a sharp steel hook at the end. The handlers usually strike the elephants behind the ears, under the chin, on the ankles, and in other areas where there is little tissue between skin and bone. This causes a lot of pain for the elephants, and they can't help but let out awful screams. When their wounds begin to bleed, the handlers try to cover them up with a special powder.
Over the years, Ringling handlers have repeatedly been videotaped abusing elephants and keeping sick elephants on the road. And that's not all! Elephants are chained in dark, cramped, filthy boxcars for an average of more than 26 straight hours—and often 60 to 70 hours at a time—when the circus travels. They're usually only unchained long enough to perform for a noisy crowd.
In the wild, elephants walk between 30 and 50 miles a day, play in mud pits, swim in watering holes, and interact with their loved ones. But circuses take young elephants away from their families and force them to stand on their heads, balance on balls, and do other things that aren't natural to elephants. And because of this, circus-related deaths are far too common. In 2004, an 8-month-old baby elephant was euthanized after he fractured his back legs after falling from a circus pedestal.
And remember Tonka—the elephant who has traveled with Ringling for almost 20 years? Video footage taken during PETA's latest Ringling investigation showed that Tonka was exhibiting signs of severe psychological distress. These include endlessly swaying from side to side while bobbing her head and swinging her foot. Despite this condition, Tonka was forced to perform for crowds night after night.
Want to know what you can do to help? First off, don't go to any circuses with animal acts, and convince your friends and family to do the same.
Just listen to what actor Kristoff St. John has to say about the circus in this PETA ad.