As much as you can say about PETA, you have to admit that they’ve got guts. Going undercover to expose animal abuse can’t be an easy task. I couldn’t even convincingly smuggle a ferret into my house as a teenager; I tripped, stuttered, and gave myself away within five seconds of my mother’s suspicious glare. I don’t think I’d be cut out to be an undercover investigator; it probably takes a special person.
I also remember my mother, sort of an animal right’s activist herself (not a veg-head, but not a supporter of fur, wild animals in cages, etc.), steadfastly refusing to take us to the circus when it came to town, telling us that “circuses hurt elephants.” I know now that she held this belief for good reasons.
This year, the organization went undercover at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Sadly, what they caught on video wasn’t a sight for the weak-stomached. Workers beat and whipped a total of eleven elephants multiple times, at multiple venues from Birmingham, Alabama to Providence, Rhode Island. Tigers were also abused during these instances.
While this was incredibly disheartening to find out, it was not surprising. We’ve all heard of circus animal abuse—particularly in elephants—before. We’ve also heard of Ringling Bros. abuse before as well—even from the horse’s mouths (or rather, employee’s mouths). What’s shocking to me is how it’s just been allowed to continue.
If you’re familiar with elephant abuse, you may know that sharp bullhooks and whips are often used to strike the animals. Bearing such abuse in their hears, legs, face, head and trunk—as well as other parts of their bodies—elephants bear enduring pain that no animal should ever encounter.
They are also inhumanely confined to tiny quarters, shackled and imprisoned to a life completely unlike the sort their relatives in the wild—who live in close familial groups and roam for miles a day—would ever live.
The elephants captured in the videos during this investigation demonstrated sure signs of psychological damage. Tonka, one such animal, swayed from side to side, bobbing her head and swinging her foot, exhibiting severe signs of stress.
Though PETA has filed a complaint with the USDA, it’s important for citizens to show that animal abuse matters to us and that we want it to be stopped as well. You can voice your opinion here and send a comment directly to the USDA.