Hot on the heels of the controversy surrounding the Cole Bros. Circus — which was in Rhode Island over the weekend and is notorious for racking up fines and citations for its treatment of elephants and for partnering with an exhibitor with a record of beating and neglecting elephants — TV icon Bob Barker is making an appeal on PETA's behalf to Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon Fox urging him to allow Rhode Island’s proposed ban on bullhooks to come to a vote.
As Barker explained in a personal phone message and in a letter sent this week, the proposed bill, House Bill 5853, would prohibit bullhooks — weapons resembling fireplace pokers that circuses use to beat and intimidate elephants — as well as chaining elephants for extended periods. Chaining is a routine circus practice that leads to serious foot problems and painful arthritis — the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized.
“Over the years, I have learned of incident after incident of the tremendous suffering that elephants in circuses endure because of bullhook abuse,” wrote Barker. "For instance, PETA’s undercover investigation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus showed plainly that elephants are viciously and repeatedly struck with bullhooks backstage just before performances in order to intimidate them and remind them that they have to do as they’re told pronto or suffer the painful consequences. Just a few weeks ago, sworn affidavits from arena workers made clear yet again that backstage bullhook beatings by people associated with Ringling performances continue. And shocking photographs released by a former Ringling trainer and published by the Washington Post show baby elephants at Ringling’s breeding center undergoing violent training sessions at its Florida compound. The frightened infants, removed prematurely from their mothers, are bound with ropes and wrestled by several adult men into physically difficult and, to them, confounding positions. These infants scream, cry, and struggle as they are stretched out, pulled to the ground, jabbed with bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods. Please take a few minutes to view these photographs and the video footage. You will never listen to Ringling’s public relations people again.
“Nothing — and certainly not a few minutes of entertainment — justifies abusing these extremely sensitive, intelligent, and majestic animals with painful bullhooks, which leave puncture wounds and scarring. Nor is there any justification for chaining them for hours, even days — Ringling’s own transportation records show that they keep elephants in tight chains for up to four consecutive days — which results in serious foot problems and painful arthritis, the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized. That’s why zoos have moved away from these practices: Most accredited zoos with elephants now handle them without bullhooks and without chaining. It’s time we stop tolerating such abysmally cruel practices in the circus. Can I count on you to allow H.B. 5853 to go to a vote in the Judiciary Committee and then to a full floor vote?”