Ohio native Chrissie Hynde has fired off a letter on PETA's behalf to Toledo Mayor Michael P. Bell, asking him to ensure that Ohio’s anti-cruelty code—which prohibits the use of any prods on animals in circuses—is enforced when Ringling Bros. circus will be in his jurisdiction during the circus’ stint at the Huntington Center from October 27 to October 30.
As the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer explains, Ringling routinely uses sharp metal bullhooks to poke, prod, and beat the elephants used in its shows into performing—even when the animals are ill and ailing. This is in direct violation of Ohio law.
“For decades, I’ve toured the world with The Pretenders, singing the praises of Ohio, and I’ve always returned to my home state a few times a year to remain an engaged citizen,” she wrote. "One thing that heartens me is the enormous interest in protecting animals in Ohio. That’s why I’m writing in advance of Ringling Bros.’ October 25th to 30th stint at Toledo’s Huntington Center to ask that you ensure that Ohio’s absolute ban on the use of prods to control animals used in circuses be enforced to prohibit Ringling’s use of bullhooks. The use of these sharp weapons on elephants, whose skin is so sensitive that they can feel flies biting them and then swat them away with their tails, is not only cruel but also unnecessary, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of accredited zoos in the United States do not use them.
“Ringling trainers have repeatedly been documented abusing elephants with bullhooks. Images from Ringling’s training facility that were published in an exposé by The Washington Post show frightened baby elephants as they are gouged with these sharp metal bullhooks during violent training sessions. A PETA undercover investigation also documented Ringling handlers as they struck elephants moments before walking on stage in order to keep them in constant fear of punishment. In fact, earlier this year, an elephant biologist observed an elephant during a Ringling show who was “quickly hooked in the rear and then again on the hind leg and made to lie on the ground” when the animal did not perform a trick on time.
“Not only do Ringling handlers routinely use these unlawful devices, they also use them to beat sick elephants in order to force them to perform. Just this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Ringling for failing to provide adequate veterinary care to an elephant suffering from a chronic infection that was causing a discharge from her vulva and for forcing another elephant to perform while she was suffering from severe diarrhea and intestinal pain. Both of these elephants are scheduled to perform in Toledo, as are a number of elephants who suffer from painful arthritis.”
To help combat this illegal cruelty, PETA is offering a reward of $5,000 to any employee of Huntington Center who catches any employee of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus using a bullhook or any similar weapon on the elephants used by the circus. While PETA members will be monitoring Ringling’s arrival in Toledo for violations of this law, circus staff—previously caught violently striking the animals and hooking them so hard that it left scars on the animals—handle elephants out of public view most of the time.
The group will also hold a demonstration outside the Huntington Center on Ringling’s opening day. Led by a bandaged “elephant” as well as PETA’s giant inflatable “elephant,” PETA members will explain to families that elephants used by Ringling are forced to perform difficult and painful tricks despite suffering from lameness and arthritis:
When: Thursday, October 27, 12 noon
Where: Huntington Center, at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and N. Huron Street, Toledo
Find out more here.