See the update at the end of this post on the conclusions of veterinarians who inspected Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants when they were bound for Anaheim.
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 4, 10:25 A.M.: The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus left Anaheim Sunday but not without a complaint from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) about a second performing elephant with wounds. But the producer of "The Greatest Show on Earth" says the wounds were inflicted by the animal, not her trainers as PETA surmises.
A photograph and video footage sent to PETA shows Bonnie following other elephants marching near Honda Center with what appears to be a thick, U-shaped scratch and a second straight scratch on the left side of her body. The Norfolk, Virginia-based animal rights organization sees three "abrasions" that may have been caused by a sharp bullhook used in training. Click here for the video.
"The photograph, taken by a passerby, shows an elephant--likely Bonnie--with three long abrasions on her side, prompting PETA to send an urgent request calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct an immediate inspection of the elephants with Ringling's Blue Unit, which is performing in Anaheim through August 3, determine the cause of the abrasions, and ensure that the elephant is receiving proper veterinary care as required by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)," reads a PETA alert.
"Ringling appears to have tried to cover up the wounds with a gray powder called 'Wonder Dust,' which Ringling uses to conceal wounds from bullhooks (weapons that resemble fireplace pokers with a sharp metal hook on one end)," adds PETA, which has long called for the prohibition of the devices.
Earlier in the circus' 10-day Anaheim run, PETA sought the same USDA intervention after a photograph surfaced of Sara, another Asian elephant, with what group believed might be a "pressure sore" on the side of her face.
Stephen Payne, spokesman for circus owner Feld Entertainment, tells the Weekly that as far as he knows, the USDA has ignored both of PETA's requests for spot inspections as no representatives of the agency showed up in Anaheim.
Payne, who'd previously explained the photo of Sara showed her with "a temporal gland" that was being treated and not a pressure sore, says Bonnie scratched herself on something, possibly a tree trunk she was playing with, and that she also received care from a veterinarian who travels with the circus.
As Payne had said about the Sara image, the Bonnie shots released by PETA are more examples of the animal rights group trying to "score cheap political points" without regard to the facts, and that the circus has a 144-year history of knowing how to care for elephants while PETA has none. Payne has told the Weekly in the past that Feld Entertainment believes PETA's ultimate goal is to completely shut down a circus that is enjoyed by millions of people.
You do get that sense reading a statement by Delcianna Winders, the PETA Foundation's deputy general counsel:
"PETA's motto says, in part, that 'animals are not ours to use for entertainment,' and the wounds on this elephant's side demonstrate why. We're calling on the authorities to hold Ringling--which has a long history of animal care violations, including deaths from neglect, and has paid the largest fine in circus history for failing to comply with the Animal Welfare Act--accountable and asking families to stay away from this cruel circus."
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UPDATE, AUG. 4, 3:02 P.M.: In light of the recent PETA allegations, the Weekly was forwarded an inspection report on performing elephants done by a consulting veterinarian in Los Angeles in parallel with the city's contracted vet.
The report states: "At all times during my observations, the elephants were calm and responsive to their trainer's directions. No trainers were observed 'raising their voices' or using their ankuses [bull hooks] for anything but guidance while moving the elephants."
The veterinarian found three scrapes on the left side of Bonnie "insignificant," and concluded, "The elephants are well cared for and the trainers and workers are dedicated to their well-being."