In a 57-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said a former Ringling employee, Tom Rider, and the Animal Protection Institute did not have legal standing to sue the circus under the Endangered Species Act.
Rider and the institute had argued that Ringling Bros. had violated the Endangered Species Act because handlers used bull hooks on elephants and chained them for long periods. Such techniques harmed the elephants, Rider and API argued.
Attorneys for Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company, replied that the elephants were not abused and were, in fact, loved by their trainers.
“We are gratified with today’s decision because it is a victory for elephants over those whose radical agenda, if adopted, could lead to the extinction of the species,” Feld Entertainment chief executive Kenneth Feld said in a statement.
The ruling by a federal judge in the lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was not based on the lengthy record of indisputable cruelty to baby elephants, some of whom died during abusive training, or the cruelty to adult elephants who are beaten with bullhooks—the equivalent of a fireplace poker—time and time again. The judge’s decision was based solely on the ruling that the former circus trainer and animal protection organizations do not have legal standing to raise these issues.
Just this year during an undercover investigation, PETA recorded Ringling trainers striking elephants with bullhooks backstage at circus shows. We also released shocking photos of baby elephants who were abused with ropes, chains, bullhooks, and electric prods at Ringling’s training center.
During a six-week trial, evidence revealed that Ringling routinely abuses elephants with bullhooks and subjects them to prolonged chaining. Bullhooks have only one purpose—to inflict pain. The sharp metal hook bruises, punctures, and tears elephants’ sensitive skin easily and often. Please urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to end the use of bullhooks and chains on elephants.
Thank you for your compassion for animals.
Circus & Government Affairs Specialist