PETA accuses circus of elephant abuse

July 22, 2009 3:06:19 PM PDT
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is defending the way it treats elephants after the animal rights group PETA released undercover video that it says shows circus workers mistreating and abusing elephants and tigers.The majestic Asian elephant is one of the biggest draws for the circus, and organizers say they could not succeed without healthy, well-cared for animals. Circus officials are questioning the validity of the videotape, shot secretly by an investigator who works for PETA.

The investigator claims he posed as a stagehand and went undercover for three months to document the treatment of circus elephants.

"Their skin is paper thin in some areas, and those are the areas that the workers focus on," PETA's Daphna Nachminovitch said. "You can see their reaction. You can see their eyes wincing."

"Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey loves its elephants," circus spokesperson Amy McWethy said. "We are proud of our animal care. We are proud that we are helping the population."

PETA calls their behind-the-scenes videotape evidence of abuse. The group has a lawsuit pending in federal court to ban the use of a bullhook, or ankus, which is a metal hook attached to a 2- or 3-foot handle. Trainers can be seen using them to direct the animals.

"It is an abusive instrument by its definition," Nachminovitch said.

Elephant experts disagree, saying the pointed instrument is used harmlessly throughout the world by trainers. One expert watched the video and does not believe it shows the pachyderms being physically hurt or abused in any way, although he says the shouting and swearing heard on the tape is not a sign of the proper respect for a potentially dangerous animal.

PETA reps passed out abuse allegation flyers at the circus in Coney Island Wednesday. Circus officials call PETA an extremist group, adding they are investigating if the undercover tape was edited to include sound effects to fake animal distress.

"We're questioning the validity of it," McWethy said. "It is a pre-packaged piece, produced by PETA, so there are some components that we're looking into."

The circus is addressing the handler seen swearing on the tape. Animal lovers lining up for a glimpse of the exotic creatures don't believe they appeared abused, yet admit they only see a few moments of their lives, just like the four minutes of video doesn't tell the whole story.

Circus officials say that anyone who questions the treatment of their animals should come to the circus and see for themselves if they think the elephants are being mistreated.

---

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

USEFUL LINKS:
  • VIEWER PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

  • REPORT TYPO

  • GET WIDGET

  • EYEWITNESS TWITTER

  • FIND US ON FACEBOOK



  • Load Comments