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. I never liked circuses. I found them to have a lot of indignities and cruelties for both humans and animals. Same thing about a lot of the Sea World shows, however, not to the same degree.

  2. “I merely wanted to say phobias are psychological abnormalitites, and you are considered phobic, if you display an irrational fear.”

    First lighten up. I never said I was afraid of clowns, I dislike them intensely. Secondly, the term “psychological abnormality” is not what one would use to describe phobia, which yes can be irrational fears, but which in some instances be induced by traumatic events. A phobia is a behavior and/or emotional reaction to something. In that sense a phobia is a symptom of some type of disorder. For instance one can suffer from an obsessive Compulsive Disorder which displays itself in being phobic about germs and thus leads to fear of contact and possibly excessive washing. Although I’ve been an Institute trained psychotherapist for about 30 years, I’m now retired and happily so. As far as irrational fears go I don’t really have any. That doesn’t mean I’m fearless, just that I don’t obsess over irrational fears. Now many of the posts on this thread were done in either a joking and/or ironic manner. I’ve actually known, not professionally, a few children who were excessively phobic about clowns. Many of these phobias are best treated by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which I am not trained in, but its application has been found to be very helpful and I believe it is an effective modality.

  3. Mike,

    So you are into practical jokes, ok, but you misdiagnosed yourself, and you are a….. psychotherapist?! Perhaps you should quit you day job and focus on your fears!

  4. Gyges,
    I don’t remembering you mentioning it before, I’ll search it out. By the way Jesterphillia is sometimes confused with Mime
    Disease, but as a psychotherapist I find it isn’t helpful to introduce too many diagnoses to laymen.

  5. Mike,

    I may have recommended this too you before, but I suggest you check out “The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases” Your brilliant post about Jesterphilla would have been perfect for it.

  6. Mike,

    You are mixing up the issues here. Obviously anyone who is sadistic, depressed or obssessed, no matter what profession he/she engages in, has psychological problems. If we have someone who is NOT sadistic, obssessed or depressed according to DSM IV, and otherwise dressed up and performing as a clown in front of interested spectators, then those definitions would not apply.

    My response was about phobias here, not the psychiatric analysis of clowns in general. Anyways, I personally never found them interesting at all, however I merely wanted to say phobias are psychological abnormalitites, and you are considered phobic, if you display an irrational fear.

  7. Mike Spindell:

    “cliche goes even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

    no it is not, it is broken.

  8. Bob,
    Loved it, but don’t remember it from the show.

    Au Contraire. Check the DSM IV Personality Disorder known as
    Jesterphillia. The diagnostic criteria for this not so rare disorder are.

    1. Enjoyment of sadistic comedy performances.
    2. Obsessive need to perform sadistic comedy without peoples
    3. Major depressive disorder in those who so perform.
    4. Intellectual pretense that said comedy is fraught with
    hidden comments on society’s mores, in the face of reality.
    5. Overwhelming need to learn to ride and to ride a unicycle
    in front of uninterested parties.
    6. Obsessive need to don masks and black outfits to perform
    for uninterested parties, while remaining silent and using
    gestures to communicate.
    7. Adults who mask subliminal sadistic feelings to children by
    forcing them to view and pretend to enjoy clowns and mimes.

    Anyone meeting at least three of these criteria is characterized as suffering from mild Jesterphillia. Persons
    meeting a minimum of five of these criteria is characterized as suffering median Jesterphillia. Those meeting six or seven of these criteria should be immediately hospitalized for the benefit of society and undergo a course of shock therapy and medication.

  9. Ay,
    Even if you like the circus, you’re an okay guy by me. We all have our foibles. As to PETA as the cliche goes even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  10. hidflect,
    Your story was absolutely brilliant and brilliantly told. A fabulous short, short story that had me rapt with attention. You are a very talented writer.

  11. Bob,

    I do now! Thanks for the laugh. I must have missed that one the first time around.

  12. Gyges 1, July 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm


    You’re thinking of Commedia dell’art

    No, I dare speculate HE was not…!

  13. I remember Riverview and I still want the deep dish pizza. I can only serve a free range, sustainably farmed turkey that was fed a vegetarian diet for Thanksgiving or my son wont eat it. Free range is just not pure enough.

  14. The fear of clowns is a psychological disorder, and I am surprised that we have quite a few here.

  15. Buddha,

    Remember this little ditty?

    Casey Kasem: Hello, I’m Casey Kasem. You know, tonight in the #1 spot, a song for a good cause. A cause most people don’t even think about. It all began when TV and radio personality, Rick Dees, and retro-psychadelic singer, Lenny Kravitz, walked into a famous L.A. bistro. They ordered a Caeser salad. But the famous chef told the hungry duo he couldn’t prepare a Caeser salad because the raw eggs so vital to the dressing were not from free-range chickens. Rick Dees flew into a rage, saying, “Chickens are like you and me, except they’re chickens.” He and Kravitz called recent Oscar winner, Whoopi Goldberg. She said, “Listen, my man, we got to do something.. something for the millions of chickens all over the country who live in tiny, overcrowded pens.” Together, they gathered some of the biggest names in the music business. The result, you’re about to see. The title is simple: “Musicians For Free-Range Chickens”.


  16. rafflaw:

    Circuses, clowns, and carnivals always creep me out. Something sort of Gothic and surreal, I suppose. I avoid them.

  17. I am with you Mespo and others on the Mimes. I cannot see the talent in looking like a reverse minstrel performer. I can deal with clowns, but there are some scary things at the Circus. The Freak Show reference reminds me of the freak show at Riverview in Chicago when I was a kid. Some of the 50plus crowd here may remember Riverview.

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