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Circuses are usually known as happy places, but for the animals that perform in these circuses, that isn’t always the case. Ringling Bros Circus has made headlines over the last few months since PETA uncovered footage of elephants being repeatedly hit and abused with metal bull hooks by their trainers. The Greatest Show on Earth had to pay the greatest settlement in November for violations of the Animal Welfare Act – $270,000. Celebrities are using their elephant-sized fame to get the message out to the public that they should stop supporting Ringling and other animal circuses.
Alec Baldwin, Ke$ha, and Ashley Judd have joined other celebrities campaigning for the boycott. Alec Baldwin recorded a video for PETA speaking out on this animal abuse. “Having worked with actors for many years, it’s hard to believe that anyone would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into show business. But for the elephants for Ringling Bros. and other circuses, that’s exactly what happens,” said Baldwin. The video reveals footage of elephants being beaten with bullhooks right before they go out onstage. One particularly shocking scene depicts a head trainer instructing the other trainers to "hurt [the elephants]. Make them scream," in order to teach them the tricks used in the shows. The video says that baby elephants are taken away from their mothers and forced into training where they are beaten and electrocuted in order to teach them the unnatural positions the circus elephants pose in. The video includes an interview with Dr. Mel Richardson, a veterinarian who works with elephants. He describes the conditions that the elephants are kept in as unsuitable. They suffer from painful arthritis, chronic foot pain and psychological distress, which is seen through the elephants' swaying from side to side. All of this abuse, as Dr. Richardson says to, “entertain someone’s 5 year old for 15 minutes…is a crime.”
Jada Pinket Smith joins the campaign as well. Smith, a Baltimore native, wrote a letter to the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, asking her to protect the elephants of Ringling Bros while the circus was in town. “Unlike me and other actors, elephants do not choose to perform. These endangered elephants will soon be in your jurisdiction. My friends at PETA and I join animal advocates across the state in asking for your leadership in holding Ringling accountable and requiring the circus to comply with Baltimore’s absolute prohibition of the use of devices such as bull hooks,” states Smith in the letter.
Other celebrities are going further to get the message out – all the way to Washington D.C. Bob Barker, Jorja Fox and Animal Defenders International are joining forces to introduce a new bill to Congress, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act. The bill is being sponsored by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), and would restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses. This will be the first bill that would regulate the use of all wild animals in circuses throughout the United States. Fox believes that the time has come for Congress to act, “Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety. A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, the least expensive solution to this problem, and long overdue. We call on Congress to bring to an end, once and for all, the abuse and suffering that has been exposed by ADI time and time again.”
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