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Exposed: The Tortured Lives of Baby Elephants in Circuses

This week, the Washington Post told the story of former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephant handler Sam Haddock, who trained baby elephants at Ringling’s Florida breeding center for 18 years. Responding to his wife’s dying wish, and a growing desire to end the violent training of baby elephants for “entertainment,” Mr. Haddock found the courage to deliver to PETA scores of shocking photographs showing handlers using ropes, chains, bullhooks and electric shock devices on baby elephants who were unnaturally torn from their mothers so they could be trained. The heart wrenching photos unequivocally demonstrate that Ringling tortures traumatized babies into performing through pain, fear and domination.

Ringling Bros. Circus continues to brutally train elephant calves, like 11-month old baby Barack, who recently made his performance debut at a shockingly young age. Barack was violently torn from his mother. Thanks to Mr. Haddock, who sadly passed away before his photographs were made public, we know too well the suffering that this baby elephant has endured and will continue to endure until the brutality inherent in using elephants in circuses is ended.

baby elephant val performingIDA's efforts have focused on the plight of baby elephants in circuses, specifically Baby Val and young Obert, who have been forced by the Carson and Barnes Circus to perform since they were less than two years old.

While Obert has apparently disappeared from the road, Baby Val has been traveling with notorious elephant trainer Tim Frisco, who was caught on video during an elephant training session telling other handlers they had to “hurt ‘em, make ‘em scream” to ensure the elephants complied with their commands. Like other baby elephants, Val is forced to perform tricks that are dangerous for her developing bones and muscles.

IDA has filed complaints with the USDA concerning the Animal Welfare Act violations inherent in subjecting baby elephants to the stress of maternal separation, training, domination and travel. We are tracking Val as she appears at circus venues across the country to document her treatment and the conditions under which she is held. We will continue to do everything in our power to rescue these babies from the miserable life that lies ahead for them if they remain in the circus.

baby elephant val performingWhile the photos of baby elephants tug at our hearts, every elephant performing in circuses today has endured the heartbreak and trauma exposed by Mr. Haddock and his photos. Whether kidnapped from their mothers in the wild, as most were, or born into captivity, every one of these elephants was torn from his or her mother, enduring unspeakable anguish and trauma as a result. As if that weren’t horrific enough, they were then subjected to brutal training, and they continue to be controlled through deprivation, restraint and fear of violent punishment.

In circuses, elephants suffer - chained, beaten and deprived of freedom and companionship - each and every day of their lives.

Click here to learn more about IDA’s campaign for Baby Val and other captive elephants, and to take action today.

In Defense of Animals, located in San Rafael, Calif., is an international animal protection organization with more than 85,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA's efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi, Mumbai, India, and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We welcome your feedback and appreciate your donations. Please join today! All donations to IDA are tax-deductible.

In Defense of Animals
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