A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Aug 11, 2011

Sarah the Elephant Collapses After Ringling Circus Performance

UPDATE: The owner of the Ringling Bros. circus has agreed to pay USDA a $270,000 fine to settle allegations that it violated federal animal-welfare laws in its handling of elephants, tigers, zebras and other exotic animals. USDA asserted that this is the largest fine ever levied against an exhibitor pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act. Nov.28th 2011
A 54 year old elephant, named Sarah, collapsed  after performing at the Ringling Brothers Circus Sunday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim California. Ringling Brothers maintains it was simply a loss of balance on a ramp. Animal welfare advocates maintain it was lack of proper medical care and fatigue.
 photo courtesy of ADI

In June of this year, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Ringling Brothers for violating the Federal Animal Welfare Act for failing to properly treat and diagnose the elephant's illness thus supporting the theory that an untreated infection could weaken, stress and cause the elephant to be overly fatigued during performances and transit. Ringling Brothers admitted that Sarah has suffered a chronic infection since 1997 but claims it is not serious or relevant to this matter.

Neither elephants, nor any other circus animals, are born trained to perform on stage. In the wild they do not sit on chairs, wear costumes or parade about on 2 legs. They have to be made to do this and how that occurs is the question. Circus personnel and other dealers in performing animals always assert that training methods are based upon positive reinforcement and reward. Yet videos showing baby elephants being tied up, shocked and hit with bullhooks continue to surface. And most recently, a video showing the electric shocking and of the elephant star in the movie "Water for Elephants" was circulated.

Additionally, there is the question of how animals are transported, housed and treated between shows. Are they overcrowded, chained up constantly, bullied, fed, cared for and soothed. The Huffington Post  asserts that the USDA also cited Ringling Brothers for having rail cars with protruding wires that could also hurt the elephants.

When animals are considered inventory and maintained for profit, there is no incentive to invest a lot of resources into their care. The higher the expense side of the ledger, the lower the net profits.

Why do we insist on supporting an industry that shackles, chains, contorts, and breaks wild animals until they submit to wearing rhinestone hats and jumping through hoops.  What about the long days cramped in train cars, endless hours chained to posts, and grueling "training" sessions topped off by a performance under bright lights, in front of thousands of screaming people which are constantly suffered by elephants, lions, tigers, horses and other circus animals?  Do we require this form of amusement? Are we still searching for a King Kong to hawk as another wonder of the world and to, of course, make a promoter rich? Does our happiness depend upon an elephant walking on hind legs or a tiger jumping through a ring of fire? I surely hope not. Can our children grow to be fine adults without witnessing this? I surely hope so. Make no mistake. It is not magic. These animals aren't born wanting to perform those tricks. They are forced, hurt, bullied and can't call for help. They have no choice.

 We can stop this. If we can't ban animals in circuses - we can ignore the circus to death. We certainly don't have to make our children enablers of these practices. If it is no longer profitable to enslave and destroy the spirit or our wild animals - maybe they will go away. 

Just say no to the circus.

Article first published as Ringling Brothers Elephant, Sarah, Collapses After Show on Technorati

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