Circusleaks: documents show cruelty to elephants at Ringling Bros.

Mother Jones has published the results of its yearlong investigation that rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. circus treats its elephants. "The Cruelest Show on Earth."


  1. My god, I don’t have the words to describe my anger towards the captors or the heartbreak I feel for these abused elephants. I need a chaser, stat.

  2. If you must keep an elephant in captivity it should at least be in a big goddamn space like San Diego’s Wild Animal Park. Other abuses aside, confining an elephant to such a small area is like keeping a whale in a fishbowl.

  3. It isn’t that I am unsympathetic to the pachyderms, but I do wonder: must cruelty to clowns always be forced to take second seat?

  4. I would ask everyone who reads anything about this to consider where the information is coming from. PETA is an organization that habitually lies about its enemies, and there are many that support their platform and platforms like it by viciously and maliciously distorting the truth.

    I have worked with Ringling Brothers Circus, and have many friends who still work there. I left the company with bad bad feelings towards Feld Entertainment completely unrelated to the animals; so know that I say this with absolutely no love for the company that owns and operates Ringling Brothers:

    With all my time backstage at the circus, I saw no abuse. None. Never. That’s because there was no abuse. The people that work with these animals love them, take very good care of them, and would never do anything to hurt them.


    Most of the time these are Circus Performers that have lived and worked with animals their whole lives, sometimes for generations back in their families; and in the case of the elephants, some people have worked with the same animals for their whole lives.

    The only leg you might have to stand on is whether or not animals that are not domestic to the Americas (or animals period) should be performing…but not about abuse that doesn’t exist.

    Many people have exposed PETA as the organization it really is, including Penn and Teller on their TV show, ‘bullshit.’ They did a fantastic job of it, and I suggest that anyone who believes in their particular cause watch that show and continue a just fight for animal rights VERY FAR AWAY FROM PETA.

    I hope the mostly skeptical community of Boing Boing, if they care about this issue, will look into it properly, and please don’t believe everything you read.

    1. I am in the process of reading the documents linked to the article, and they do not appear to have come from PETA or any other animal-rights organization. Most are court transcripts, legal documents,  or depositions of witnesses. The testimony from the workers who actually were involved in the day-to-day affairs of the elephants is most telling, as is Glenn Ewell’s testimony that he worked for several circuses and saw no abuse except for at Ringling.

      Also, the city of Chicago animal inspection report provided as a link in the original article indicates the animals were not provided adequate veterinary care. This report was generated by the USDA and the city of Chicago, not any animal-rights organization.

      While I agree with you that anything coming from PETA’s office should be viewed with a skeptic eye, the article in question goes to great lengths to provide the primary source material for their accusation of “cruelest show on earth.”

  5. The reason Ms. Slater didn’t see any abuse is because it is all done in private training sessions. No one — not even Kenneth Feld, owner of Ringling’s parent company — other than the trainers attend the sessions. If she is interested in learning more, she can read the Ringling trial transcripts and see all the enhibits at

  6. First of all, I’m a fella.

    Second. I was a performer with the circus. I lived there. I was involved in the “secret training sessions.” Except that… there are no “secret training sessions.” Maybe not open to the public, but then again what show has open rehearsals?

    I AM a primary source document. I was actually there.

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