By Ingrid Newkirk, President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
At Ringling Bros. circus, still-nursing 18- to 24-month-old baby elephants are captured rodeo-style, roped around all four legs, tethered neck-to-neck to an "anchor" elephant, and dragged away from their mothers. From this point forward in their lives, every movement, every instinct, and every natural form of behavior is subjected to suppression and discipline at the whim of the trainer.
The baby elephants are restrained with ropes or chains on a concrete floor in a barn for up to 23 hours a day in order to break their spirits. They are never allowed to play outdoors and are denied all that is natural and important to them.
Never-before-seen photographs given to PETA by a whistleblower reveal that this is the real way that they teach baby elephants to learn circus "tricks"―through cruelty.
Bound with ropes in the practice area, baby elephants are wrestled by several adult men—some using sharp bullhooks and electric shock prods—slammed to the ground, and aggressively pushed and pulled into positions that will eventually be incorporated into a circus routine. The frightened baby elephants cry out, but according to the whistleblower, Ringling uses loud music to muffle their screams.
The whistleblower is former elephant handler Sam Haddock, who worked at Ringling's Center for Elephant Conservation, a breeding and training center, in Polk City, Florida, off and on between 1997 and 2005. His late wife had urged him to do the right thing and expose Ringling's torturous treatment of elephants at its so-called "conservation center." A short time after providing PETA with dozens of disturbing images and a statement detailing how baby elephants are tied up and their spirits are broken, Mr. Haddock, too, passed away following a sudden illness.
Please explore the photos that Mr. and Mrs. Haddock wanted the world to see and share them with everyone you know through e-mail or on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Please remember these images the next time the circus comes to town, and don't attend, as that is the best way to stop the abuse of these baby elephants.