Big top cruelty
End abusive animal training methods
Published: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will present a circus spectacular, “Barnum Bash” this weekend.
Unsuspecting parents and attendees may be under the impression they are attending an event full of family fun. They couldn’t be more wrong. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Ringling Bros. have often been at odds over the presence of circuses. PETA has long advocated for the complete shutdown of animal acts, while Ringling Bros. claims PETA misrepresents its animal practices. In 2009, The Washington Post featured Sammy Haddock, a former handler at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Center for Elephant Conservation. His job description included training baby elephants to be circus performers. He later died and left behind pictures and written accounts of maltreatment of the baby elephants. The Post wrote, “In a 15-page notarized declaration…before he took sick, Haddock describes how, in his experience at Ringling’s conservation center, elephant calves were forcibly separated from their mothers. How up to four handlers at a time tugged hard on ropes to make babies lie down, sit up, stand on two legs, salute, do headstands. All the public’s favorite tricks. His photos show young elephants trussed in ropes as bullhooks are pressed to their skin.” These accounts are sickening and force us to confront head-on the abuse propagated by Ringling Bros. Of course, the circus disputes the claims made by Haddock and PETA and instead claims bullhooks are used throughout the animal industry to give “cues” to elephants. Regardless of whether bullhooks are common practice, it doesn’t make its use ethical. Elephants don’t normally stand on two legs and perform headstands. It’s cruel to take an animal out of its natural habitat, tear it away from its family, and force it to perform tricks simply for our amusement. Seeing an elephant slammed to the ground and hit with rope doesn’t amuse me. It sickens me. In November 2011, the USDA announced Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey must pay a $270,000 fine for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act. Seems like a slap on the wrist given its CEO is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey graces College Station with its presence this weekend, I encourage you to skip it. Let’s not propagate animal abuse and instead, let’s take a stand.
Naila Dhanani is a senior biomedical sciences major and editor in chief of The Battalion.