Former Ringling Brothers Employees Bolster Federal Lawsuit Against Circus

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Elephants Beaten with Bullhooks in the Name of Entertainment

Washington, D.C. -- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and others seek permission for three former circus employees to join in their federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus under the Endangered Species Act. The suit alleges that Ringling Bros. mistreats and abuses the Asian elephants it uses in shows all across the country.

Former Ringling Bros. employees Archele Hundley, Margaret Tom and Robert Tom Jr. witnessed elephant cruelty before leaving the circus last summer. Their observations reaffirm evidence previously described by existing plaintiff and former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider, which includes the routine striking of elephants with bullhooks, and chaining of the animals for long periods of time.

Hundley, who quit the circus because she found the mistreatment of the animals too upsetting, recalled an incident where notorious animal trainer, Sacha Houcke used a bullhook in an attempt to force an elephant named Baby to lie down. After smacking her with the bullhook repeatedly with no success, Houcke inserted the bullhook into Baby's ear canal, and while holding the bullhook's handle with both hands, he pulled down on Baby's ear with all of his weight, causing her to bleed profusely and squeal in pain.

In describing an episode that happened earlier this year when an elephant named Asia defecated on one of the dancers during her routine, Margaret Tom stated that she "witnessed two guys beat Asia the minute she left the stage, hitting her at least 10 times with bullhooks, making her scream."

Margaret Tom's husband, Robert Tom Jr., reported that elephants are hit with bullhooks daily.  He described an elephant who bled from the back and screamed in pain from a beating that lasted approximately 30 minutes. The trainer exerted so much energy that "he would periodically sit in a chair to take a break, then return to the elephant and start hooking again."

"These witnesses reinforce what we know Ringling Bros. is anxious to hide," said Tracy Silverman, General Counsel for AWI. "We are pleased that these former employees have come forward to reveal what goes on behind the scenes of the big tent, and we are eager to present this evidence in court."

The Washington, D.C. law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal is representing AWI and its co-plaintiffs, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute and another former Ringling employee, Tom Rider. Trial is expected to commence sometime next year.

##30##

Media Contact:
Tracy Silverman, Esq.: (202) 446-2122, tracy@awionline.org

The Animal Welfare Institute has worked for over 56 years to reduce the unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted on animals by humans. To help make a difference, please visit www.awionline.org