If there’s one thing we know about circuses that use animals,
it’s that, well, THEY SUCK.

Elephants, tigers, and other animals used in circuses are stolen from their families, tightly chained or caged for hours or even days at a time, and beaten, electro-shocked, and whipped into submission by circus trainers (uhhhh, WTF?!).

elephant circus abuse ringling bros

Circuses want you to believe that these animals voluntarily stand on their heads, balance on balls, and jump through rings of fire—but c’mon, y’all. We know better than that.

Check out a few of the most common, often bloodied tools used by the circus industry to hurt animals, and see for yourself that a life in the circus is anything but fun for animals:


peta2 bullhook

A bullhook, which resembles a fireplace poker, has a sharp steel hook and a point at one end and is used to beat, hit, prod, and jab elephants into submission, sometimes until they’re bloody. Trainers often embed the hook in the soft tissue behind the ears, inside the ear or mouth, in and around the anus, and in tender spots under the chin and around the feet.

A former Ringling Bros. employee said that beating elephants with bullhooks was a normal routine and that “Ringling even employs a guy to use some special powder to stop up the bleeding when an elephant is hooked too hard. They call it ‘spot work'”—as in “try and ‘spot’ the abuse,” we’re guessing.

And that’s not all:

elephants electro-shocked in circuses



elephants chained in the circus

 In the wild, elephants walk up to 30 miles each day, but in the circus, these intelligent, social animals are locked in leg shackles that only allow them to take a single step forward or backward. Ringling’s own documents reveal that on average, elephants are chained for 26 hours straight and are sometimes chained for as many as 100 hours straight.


ringling boxcar
Photo: Eli Christman | Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train | CC by 2.0 

Constant travel means that animals are confined to boxcars or trailers, often for days at a time, in extremely hot and cold weather, often without access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. While in transit, elephants, big cats, and primates are forced to eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate all in the same place.

How can you help?

  • If you know of a circus headed to your town, e-mail us at [email protected], and we’ll hook you up with FREE leaflets, stickers, and petitions that you can use to get the word out in your town about how circuses HURT animals!
  • Is your class planning a fieldtrip to the circus? OH, HELL NO! Tell your teacher about how cruel animal-based circuses are and ask to see an animal-free circus instead. 🙂

peta2 circus pledge

You can also order FREE stickers to help spread the word about helping animals.

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