Circus Animal Abuse – Does It Still Exist?


circus animal abuseWe all know that circus animal abuse once existed and was, in fact, quite a regular affair. But is it possible that this type of abuse still exists?

Recent news stories suggest so.

Last month, music mogul Russell Simmons took to the web to proclaim his unhappiness with UniverSoul Circus’ decision to hire Hugo Liebel. UniverSoul Circus is one of the most popular circus group in the country. Liebel’s Family Circus (based in Florida) has a long history with USDA violations. In 2005 the circus was fined by the USDA for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failure to provide adequate space and a veterinary care for animals, particularly with an elephant named Nosey.

PETA has been on Liebel’s case for years, proclaiming that Nosey the elephant has been abused at the hands of Liebel. They cite a 2004 incident, in which the elephant pushed a circus worker, as demonstration that the elephant was stressed from repeated abuse. Liebel claimed that the incident was the result of an untrained worker approaching Nosey inappropriately.

Regardless, incidents like this, while not as rampant as decades ago, still exist.

In England, an elephant was rescued by Longleat’s Safari Park after undercover video footage shot by activists exposed abuse that Anne the elephant suffered abuse at the hands of animal keepers at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus. This included Anne being beaten by a pitchfork while chained to the floor.

Undercover video footage is at the heart of capturing circus animal abuse. Humanity Through Education claims that it’s been gathering evidence over the past 10 years to refute the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus claim that animal abuse practices are a thing of the past.

In fact, in a 2011 lawsuit, the USDA accused the circus of violating the Animal Welfare Act over a four-year period. The circus denied the accusations but agreed to settle the case.

Wherever circuses like Ringling Bros. go, protesters are sure to follow, claiming that animals such as elephants are beaten during training and kept in confined spaces at odds with the animals’ natural habitat. There is an entire website dedicated toward evidence that Ringling Bros. mistreats its animals, including a video of a trainer whipping elephants on the head and body moments before a show. The site also provides readers with a detailed infographic on elephant abuse in circuses.

Bob Barker protects the elephants

Bob Barker has teamed up with Animal Defenders International (ADI) to urge event organizers from ending the use of elephants at public events. Barker narrates a DVD titled ‘No Fun For Elephants’ that shows examples of elephant abuse in the US and across the globe.

“To many, it looks like harmless fun, but elephants pay a heavy price for the few minutes of entertainment they provide when performing in circus shows giving rides, or making appearance at parades, weddings or other events,” Barker says in the DVD.

Often times, reports of circus animal abuse becomes a “he said, she said” affair, unless there is irrefutable video evidence. Most circus officials claim that incidents of animal abuse are rare and isolated, however, as more and more videos are leaked on the web, it’s difficult not to second-guess that claim.


  1. You say that in the UK an elephant was abused by its keeper. Noone will deny the keeper was hitting the elephant, but only when he was alone and always with his back to the camera. Even the Judge said their were some very suspicious circumstances. Further evidence claims that the groom has subsequently boasted of being paid. It is still hoped to bring him to justice.

  2. very sad to see the Anne case brought up in this once again, i want to make it clear that this case was made clear by the courts that bobby clearly cared and loved his animals very much and had a perfect clean record, he also made clear that bobby himself did not carry out any abuse he also made clear that the activists broke the law when taking the video and their motives were suspect. it was also proved that the video was edited with fake soundtrack after being carefully studied by forensic labs. but as i see yet again the true facts of this case and most likely the other cases mentioned above many other facts have been left out. this is typical report that is biased and unfair and that is designed to mislead and manipulate the good nature of most public members

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