Five facts about elephants in circuses you need to know

Your go-to guide for performing pachyderms

Share
Related Topics

Elephants are incredibly intelligent creatures. Perhaps that's why they've been a feature in travelling circuses for centuries. However, abuse of performing elephants has been well documented in that time.

1. The Romans used elephants in spectacle…

The Romans mainly used elephants for public show in processions, circuses and as objects of torment. The first records of elephants fighting each other as a form of circus entertainment date back to 99 B.C, when both animal and gladiator fights were popular in Rome. In 55 B.C. Roman military leader Pompey pitted elephants against men with javelins at a bloodthirsty spectacle, known as the Games. The Romans also used to parade elephants in shows of victory and as demonstrations of wealth and power.

2. …But elephant cruelty did not stop there

In the 19th century showman P.T. Barnum, who later formed American circus Barnum and Bailey, sent assistants to Sri Lanka to catch elephants for his travelling menagerie. Written accounts from the 1850s describe how wild elephants had nooses tied around their ankles and were hoisted on to a ship for a 12,000 mile journey to New York. In his autobiography, Barnum wrote that his posse “killed large numbers of the huge beasts” on the expedition.

3. Allegations of elephant abuse have led to bitter legal battles

In 2000, several animal rights groups including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), accused Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey of abusing their elephants with hooks and chains. The case fell apart when lawyers found that a key witness, a former employee of the circus, had received over $190,000 from ASPCA and other litigants. The court ruled in favour of Ringing Bros. in 2009 and ASPCA agreed to pay the circus’ parent company $9.3 million.

However, a 2011 investigation by Mother Jones alleged further incidents of elephant abuse by Ringling Bros., describing how the animals spent most of their lives chained, in cramped conditions and at risk of being beaten.

4. Los Angeles is banning bullhooks

In October this year Los Angeles City Council voted to ban the use of bullhooks by circus workers. The sharp-tipped tool is used to train elephants, but critics say it inflicts pain. Other items used on elephants, including baseball bats, axe handles and pitchforks, will also be banned.

Circuses in the area now have three years to either change how they train elephants, or remove them from shows completely.

5. The last circus elephant in Britain, Anne, was brutally mistreated

Anne performed at Bobby Robert’s ‘Super Circus’. But in 2011 shocking undercover footage emerged of the 58-year old Asian elephant being kicked and beaten with a pitchfork by her carer Nicola Nitu in her winter quarters in Northamptonshire. Roberts was found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a performing elephant in November last year and was given a three year conditional discharge. Anne was transferred to Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire in April 2011.

A ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses in England will go ahead by the end of 2015.


You can read more about our Christmas campaign here

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executives - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
Charles Kennedy campaigns with Business Minister Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire on 27 April 2015  

Charles Kennedy and the rise and fall of the Liberal Democrats

John Rentoul
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral