Elephant on Ground Near Boxcar Brings Rashomon Explanations from Ringling Bros. and PETA

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claims that a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephant collapsed while being loaded into a rail boxcar in Anaheim following Sunday night's finale at the Honda Center.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has been sent a letter from PETA "urging him to make this most recent visit of Ringling's the last in the city because of the never-ending stream of animal abuse," according to the animal-rights organization that has mounted unending opposition to the use of elephants in the Greatest Show on Earth.

In a separate letter to Ontario's Mayor Paul Leon, PETA calls for an immediate inspection of Ringling's animals by an independent veterinary expert to "ensure that Ringling does not force this or any other ailing animal to perform." A circus engagement is scheduled to begin Wednesday at Citizens Business Bank Arena there.

Sarah the elephant appears to have fallen and can't get up. Ringling Bros. and PETA dispute how she landed there.
Sarah the elephant appears to have fallen and can't get up. Ringling Bros. and PETA dispute how she landed there.
Courtesy of PETA

Ringling Bros. tells the Weekly the elephant in the photo at left is Sarah, who lost her balance while entering the boxcar in Anaheim. The circus, which is under the Feld Entertainment umbrella, claims in the following statement that the "false" and "grossly out of context" allegations originated from Animal Defenders International (ADI), which previously released footage of elephants it claims were abused at a Ringling Bros. ranch in Florida:

"Sarah, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey elephant on the Red Unit, is healthy. The most recent allegations by Animal Defenders International (ADI) are not only false but grossly out of context. The facts are, following the final show in Anaheim, Calif., Sarah escorted by her handlers up the loading ramp into the elephant train car when she shifted her position, backing down the ramp, causing her to lose her balance, where she kneeled and roll down the ramp onto the ground. It took approximately ten minutes for her handlers to allow Sarah to reposition herself and stand on her own, which she did."

The Ringling Bros. statement continues, "Sarah was immediately examined by a Ringling Bros. veterinary technician as well as Orange County animal control officers who were present during the incident. They found that she received minor abrasions but was otherwise in good condition. Following her examination Sarah was accompanied up the ramp and entered the train car without incident.  She has also been examined by a Ringling Bros. veterinarian, and a follow up visit in Ontario by animal control officers found her to be good health. It is appalling that ADI would manipulate an incident and the public to further their agenda."  

But PETA director Delcianna Winders says in email to the Weekly that her organization, which works closely with ADI, began calling for Sarah's removal from performances last month "because of her poor physical condition."

In a statement of her own, Winders writes:

"If the fallen elephant was indeed Sarah, then this is the latest incident of a sick animal in desperate need of treatment being forced to travel and perform strenuous tricks under threat of the metal-spiked bullhook--one more example of Ringling's complete disregard for the health and well-being of the animals it uses. The city has the authority to make sure that Ringling never again brings its abusive show to Anaheim and should act on it."

Her group claims that two independent veterinarians who observed video footage of Ringling's elephant walk and opening-night performance in Los Angeles two weeks ago reported back that: "[O]ne of the elephants is lame to the point of being crippled and should not be performing; that an elephant showed evidence of arthritis, one of the leading reasons elephants are euthanized; that an elephant exhibited pelvic lameness; and that an elephant showed shoulder lameness."

The PETA email continues, "An elephant biologist who observed these same elephants in May reported similar symptoms, indicating that the ill and ailing elephants are continually forced to perform despite their poor health and without sufficient veterinary treatment."

Those interested are pointed to this site for more information: RinglingBeatsAnimals.com.

Ringling Bros. would instead point you to its Center for Elephant Conservation: ElephantCenter.com.


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