Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Ringling Employees Tell of Bloody Beatings, Routine Abuse

Two former Ringling employees have contacted PETA independently with allegations of routine abuse in the circus, including bloody beatings and a culture in which employees who object to animals’ cruel treatment are either ignored or punished. Still haunted by what she witnessed, Archele Hundley quit Ringling’s red unit in June 2006 after just two months, and Bob Tom, who worked on the same unit for two years, was fired in August 2006, allegedly for complaining about the beatings.

Elephants Live in Fear of Beatings
Both Hundley and Tom worked on the animal crew and tell PETA that they witnessed a violent beating of an elephant that lasted at least 30 minutes when Ringling had a layover at the fairgrounds in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When an elephant refused a command to lie down, Ringling’s head elephant trainer, Sacha Houcke, allegedly beat the elephant with a bullhook, hooking her behind the ear, on the leg, and on the back. At one point, he reportedly inserted the hook inside the elephant’s ear canal and pulled on the handle using both hands and the full force of his body weight. The elephant cried out in agony and was left bleeding profusely from severe wounds.

The following were among the whistleblowers’ declarations to PETA:

Elephants are so terrified of the trainers that they begin urinating, defecating, and trumpeting in fear at the sound of their voices.

Elephants are aggressively hooked on a daily basis, and handlers rub dirt into bloody bullhook wounds to conceal them from the public.

Elephants suffering from arthritis are kept on the road.

Elephants are only unchained when the public is around.

Some employees were outraged at Sacha Houcke’s recklessness when he brought Luna and another elephant perilously close to a PETA staffer and assaulted him in Oklahoma City. Luna is extremely dangerous and unpredictable. She has attacked handlers and frequently shows aggression toward people, and employees are regularly warned not to go near her.

The circus knows in advance when U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors are coming for what are supposed to be unannounced inspections.

Horses Beaten and Whipped
Horses are one of the most commonly used animals in circuses, but they receive the least protection, as they are not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Hundley and Tom reported severe alleged abuse of horses, including the following:

Horses are grabbed by the throat and shoved, jabbed with pitchforks, and given “lip twists,” a sadistic way to inflict pain on one of the most sensitive areas of a horse’s body.

Most of Ringling’s horses are head-shy from being punched in the face so many times. If you try to pet them, they jerk their heads away because they fear being hit.

A handler allegedly tethered a horse named Sonny and whipped the horse with the metal snap of the lead for 10 minutes. The horse was later found to have a broken tooth.

A miniature horse got loose and was repeatedly punched on the back and sides when he was recaptured.

Sacha Houcke allegedly slugged a shrieking miniature horse named Gunther in the face twice with such force that it would have knocked down a full-grown person. The sound of his fist, which could be heard 20 feet away, knocked the horse senseless.

A horse named Mizean had cuts across his sides and back from being viciously whipped.

Miserable Transport Conditions
The former circus employees further report that during transit, elephants are packed inside boxcars so tightly that they are unable to turn around or lie down. On three- and four-day trips, animals are let off the train for exercise only once. Most of the time, they are forced to stand in mountains of foul-smelling feces and urine that fill up to two Dumpsters. Hundley says that the stench inside the boxcars is so bad that it causes people’s eyes to water and their noses to burn.

Some elephants scrape their backs when they are loaded and unloaded from the trains because the openings in the boxcars are not large enough.

Tom described an incident in Fairfax, Virginia, where two horses suffered heatstroke after they were left in stifling boxcars for almost 12 hours in near 100°F heat.

Whistleblowers Threatened While Abusers Go Unpunished
The whistleblowers contend that Ringling falsifies personnel performance reports for employees who quit in disgust or are fired after complaining about the systematic abuse of animals so that the phony records can be used to discredit anyone who goes public with what he or she witnessed.

Employees are warned not to show affection toward animals. And Ringling management tells employees who complain about the beatings, “If you don’t like it, pack your bags,” and even threatens them with legal action if they report abuse to advocacy groups.

Instead of firing employees who mistreat animals, circus management simply cautions handlers not to discipline animals in view of the public.

Comment: You Can Help Change This.  Don’t go to the "Cruellest Show on Earth."  Spread the word about the cruelty associated with such “entertainment.”  Ask your local council for bylaws prohibiting the circus from coming to town.

Ringling Brothers Will Stand Trial for Elephant Abuse

The circus is coming to town, reads the headline of the Penticton Western News, July 20, 2010 

Imagine seeing the Michael Jordan of all circus animals in his prime. That’s how they refer to Bo, an African elephant who is coming to Penticton as part of the World Famous Jordan Circus, due to perform two shows at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Aug. 1. 

After being featured in the renowned Ringling Brothers’ Greatest Show on Earth for the past two years, Bo has begun touring with the Jordan Circus, which they are billing as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to see this amazing gentle giant.

Please spread the word and boycott this appalling event. Apparently, ticket sales are sluggish so Global Spectrum intends on “donating” tickets to local businesses and service clubs to increase attendance. DON”T GO! TAKE A STAND AGAINST ANIMAL CRUELTY!  

Carmina Gooch’s letter of July 27, 2010 to City officials and the Penticton tourism office. 

Re: Bylaw to Ban Circus Animal Acts 

Dear Mayor and Council: 

I am writing to you after hearing that the Jordan Circus is coming to Penticton this weekend. How could you allow such barbaric ‘entertainment’? 

Bo, an African elephant, will be forced to perform two shows at the South Okanagan Events Centre on August 1. This highly intelligent pachyderm has been taken from his family and exploited by Ringling Bros. Circus, infamous for routine animal abuses. It, and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, also faced a lawsuit over the mistreatment of Asian elephants under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Jordan’s, too, has been cited and fined numerous times in the U.S. for failing to meet minimal federal standards for animal care. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that it neglected to provide proper veterinary care, exercise, handling, nutritious food and clean water, shelter from the elements, and inadequate and unsafe enclosures for the animals. For example, the Circus waited a month to seek treatment for a malnourished tiger with a fractured leg, and it forced another sick tiger to perform. PETA says Jordan’s no longer holds an exhibitor's licence from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that its animals are leased from outside companies. 

Animals used for circuses have been taken from a natural environment and away from family. Travelling roadshows and circuses means these sentient beings are forced to move from city to city. Constant travel means that they are confined to boxcars and trailers for days at a time in extremely hot and cold weather, often without access to basic necessities. The physical confinement to which these animals are subjected has harmful physical and psychological effects, which are often indicated by unnatural behaviours such as repeated head-bobbing, swaying, and pacing. Elephants have injured or killed children or trainers. They belong in the wild, not in captivity! To deprive them of  such a life is inconsistent with compassion and the societal values of today.  

Because no government agency monitors training sessions, animals are vulnerable to widespread ill-treatment. Trainers use bullhooks, whips, sticks, electric prods, and other tools that intentionally cause pain and injury in order to force animals to perform demeaning and silly tricks. Undercover footage of behind-the-scenes training shows elephants beaten with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods, big cats dragged by heavy chains around their neck and hit with sticks, bears whacked and prodded with long poles, and chimpanzees kicked and hit with riding crops. 

Surely you know this, so why would you condone such cruelty? I am shocked and outraged that a city like Penticton permits this irresponsible, outdated and inhumane exploitation of animals.

Bolivia passed a law last year that prohibits the use of ALL animals in circuses. A bylaw prohibiting the use of exotic animals in shows has been enacted in some 20 cities in B.C. Vancouver passed its bylaw in 1992. 

Good governance includes sound and strong leadership. Therefore, I kindly request that the City of Penticton move forward with the times, set a positive example, and implement new legislation to ban circuses that include the use and misuse of animals in its shows.

Comment: Despite there being new regulations requiring permits to transport and display exotic animals, Asian elephants were allowed to perform while the Ministry reviewed the permits. Also, black bears were part of this horrendous ‘entertainment.’ Under the Wildlife Act they are supposed to be exempt from the same public display conditions as exotic animals governed by the Controlled Alien Species regulation. 

Meanwhile, circuses with exotic animals will still be able to perform in Vernon. On 09/13/10, Council decided not to pass a bylaw banning lion, tigers, and elephants, as some other communities have done. The majority of council felt that provincial and federal legislation was adequate.

June 28, 2014 Mexico City circus operators fear animal ban means end to livelihood

Comment: Exploiting animals for entertainment is becoming that of a bygone era. The public has been made aware of the terrible abuses and stress on animals such as big cats, elephants, and other intelligent and sentient beings forced to submit to human domination, and are staying away in droves.

January 14, 2017 Ringling Bros. closing curtain on namesake circus after 146 years

Comment: Thank you to everyone who took action on behalf of the animals to help end this cruel tradition of animal suffering and abuse. This dark period of our history is finally drawing to a close.

Read more: Ringling Brothers Will Stand Trial for Elephant Abuse; Bolivia bans use of animals in circuses, UK bill stalls; CA cities take action, bullhooks banned