Pop quiz! Do elephants stand on their heads in the wild? It’s a no-brainer: They don’t.

They don’t balance on balls in the wild, either. And they definitely don’t enjoy spending day after day chained inside dark, cramped, filthy boxcars or kept in tiny cages inside trailers when they aren’t being forced to perform dumb tricks for human entertainment. In the wild, these intelligent animals would roam mile after mile every day. In circuses, they are denied everything that is natural and important to them.

Although circuses want you to think that the animals are happy and enjoy performing silly tricks, real life for elephants in circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus includes the constant fear of being beaten with a bullhook (a long metal rod with a steel tip on the end), electro-shocked, whipped, or chained so tightly that they can barely move, sometimes for days on end. PETA investigations and whistleblower photos and videos have shown Ringling that trainers beat elephants over and over and dig bullhooks into the most sensitive parts of their bodies.

Because circuses are constantly traveling from city to city, animals’ access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate. Often, animals are allowed out of their cages or chains only when they must perform. Elephants are often kept in leg shackles that prevent them from taking more than one step in any direction, and the minimum requirements of the federal Animal Welfare Act are routinely ignored. To make it worse, many circuses routinely travel with elephants who are ill or have cripplingly painful foot problems, which can be fatal.

Fight the Abuse

NEVER buy a ticket to any circus that uses animals. If your school is planning a trip to one, fight it! E-mail us at [email protected], and we’ll help you urge your school to ditch the circus for an event in which everyone gets to choose whether to participate.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Circus

  1. Whistleblower photos given to PETA by a former Ringling trainer revealed how Ringling trains baby elephants to perform tricks—and it’s heartbreaking. Baby elephants are torn away from their mothers, stretched out with ropes, and beaten with bullhooks. They are chained to a concrete floor for up to 23 hours at a time in order to break their spirits and force them to submit. They are never allowed to play outdoors or spend time with their families.1
  2. Ringling Bros. has a long list of violations of the Animal Welfare Act and has been cited several times by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failure to provide adequate veterinary care and failure to handle animalsDec in a way that prevents harm.2
  3. In 2011, Ringling Bros., agreed to pay $270,000 in fines for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.3
  4. Cole Bros. Circus has also been cited repeatedly by the USDA for animal welfare violations.4
  5. To hide bloody wounds that might show during circus shows, Ringling trainers often cover them with a gray dust called “Wonder Dust” so that crowds of naïve circusgoers don’t notice the injuries.

What You Can Do to Help

  • Share Karen’s “Draw My Life” video.
  • Expose the truth about Ringling Bros.


1PETA, “Ringling Bros. Beats Animals,”, 2015.
2PETA, “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” Factsheet,, Dec. 2014.
3Leigh Remizowski, “USDA Fines Ringling Bros. Circus Over Treatment of Animals,”, 29 Nov. 2011.
4Tom Rider, testimony, legislative hearing on H.R. 2929, 13 Jun. 2000.



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