Worst Show On Earth: Ringling Bros. Accused of Elephant Abuse Based on Undercover Video

800px-Ringling_poster_1898_editedA new videotape (below) has emerged of alleged abuse by a circus of elephants. This video by an undercover PETA activist shows Ringling Bros. employees beating elephants in ‘The Greatest Shows on Earth.” We have previously followed such lawsuits against the circuses, here.

The PETA activist used a hidden camera to take the video, which could raise some interesting legal issues not just for the circus but PETA itself.

The spokesman for Feld Entertainment (with the fortunate name of Payne), insisted that “PETA is an animal rights extremist group.”

Ringling was accused of elephant abuse by a former employee Tom Rider in 2003 and, in 1998, agreed to donate $20,000 to elephant-care groups to settle a case involving the death of a 3-year-old elephant in Jacksonville, Florida.

The use of such undercover agents creates a legal risk for PETA. In Food Lion v. ABC , a store was shown in an undercover segment engaging in unsanitary techniques and accused Food Lion of selling rat-gnawed cheese, meat that was past its expiration date and old fish and ham that had been washed in bleach to kill the smell. Food lion denied the allegations and sued ABC for trespass. A jury ruled against ABC and awarded Food Lion punitive damages for the investigation involving ABC journalists lying on their application forms and assumed positions under false pretenses. (here). The Fourth Circuit however wiped out the punitive damage award while upholding the verdicts of trespass and breach of loyalty with awards of only $1 for each. Ringling may seek to sue PETA not just for PETA but product disparagement and other tort-related claims. It could seek to expand on the Food Lion case.

In the meantime, PETA is filing against Ringling with federal and state authorities.

For the full story, click here.

47 thoughts on “Worst Show On Earth: Ringling Bros. Accused of Elephant Abuse Based on Undercover Video”

  1. @A.Y.

    I think I paraphrase Aristotle: “Give me the child until he’s seven and I’ll give you the man”..

    So your right to say “People will do what people will do.” I don’t think you can change people’s outlook beyond the short term, and it’s basically questionable whether anyone should be a self-appointed judge to even try.

    Of course, I can’t change style either. From a childhood spent in England, I am firmly stamped with the “animal lover” identity. This is probably the most widely accepted/enforced “attitude” in England. It’s taboo to discuss harming animals generally – (yes, hypocritically ignore the vast amount of meat eating). Community conformity is (was) much stronger in England than even Japan, which is famous for it’s communal-group approach. Not even close.. Public freedom of expression in Japan is endlessly greater than England.

    Many parts of England unfortunately have a very retributional, oppressive, peer-enforced culture about what is “wrong” and what is “right”. As example: If you wore clothes that would be deemed “odd” (like, say, a full length black leather trenchcoat)and walked down a Northern English street you would likely get a barrage of intimidating staring, derisive, not-so-quiet sarcastic mutters, and probably a dose of some jeering/hectoring from complete strangers. You’d be deemed as “trying to be better than others”. No discussion about it.

    Maybe this cultural environment so heavily filled with imposed “rules” for how to act/behave/think is why the English invented so many sports played around the world. It’s all about the rules… So it’s not a completely negative cultural trait.

    Unfortunately, another of the “lessons” imprinted is that well-established, core values should be endlessly held-up as a standard to others (no matter who or where they are), and be proselytized and enforced with zeal regardless of the potential agitation, arrogant impression and annoyance of others. This meant lots of invading “foreigners” countries and then teaching them God and sanitation systems..

    I think that is also perhaps why (quite innocently), English people still can seem very pompous or lecturing at times to people when they go overseas. They’re often caught telling someone they barely know, what, why and how they should be doing things… simply because their whole understanding on helpfully communicating issues has been drilled and instructed into them by the same manner.

    ( I know.. I wandered off topic… )

  2. hidfleck,

    My family specifically one aunt gave all of her money to a University. It was for persons wanting to be a Veterinarian for small animals. It is not grade dependent. It has a few restrictions and one is that it cannot be used for any, any athletic scholarship. It is a free ride for 4 people per year.

    People will do what people will do. If the animals are left in the wild are they any less subject to death? Do not people hunt these wild animals for fun and profit here in the US as well?

    I am not saying that they are better off because of it, but wouldn’t you use some level of force to train your child?

  3. Some times I see the point made that we pay so much sympathy to animals but don’t seem able to summon the same level of concern for other people. But I don’t see that as any sign of hypocrisy. Animals are unable to speak, cajole, bargain and protest. Inside our habitat they are completely dependent on our good graces. If someone fails such a basic test, abusing for profit or amusement, then to me, whatever accomplishments and achievements they bring about, it’s meaningless because somewhere way back early on down the road, they flunked a basic hurdle to qualify for membership to civilisation as surely as if they’d overlooked the need to master basic toilet training.

  4. OMG!!!!!! I’m so pissed right now i don’t know what to do with myself ! I only watched about 2 mintes and thats all i could stand! Why is that fat *** hitting that poor elephant for no reason at all??!! This is very unfortunate for my kids because My husband and i were planning on taking them to ringling bros. funundrum next weekend ,but no way am i paying over 100 dollars to support THIS

  5. hidflect,

    That was an awesome story btw. Thanks. 😀 Having spent time in Japan, as a non-native, that would be a stranger experience than many would imagine. Being a loner or in small group of gaigin in a Japanese crowd is an odd enough sensation without being chased by harlequins. Hey, since you spent time there, what was your impression of “Lost In Translation” (assuming you’ve seen it)? Other than making me fall in love with Scarlett Johansson, I thought Bill Murray really captured what it can be like for a Westerner in Japan.

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