Mother Jones has a long investigation into the treatment of elephants at Ringling Brothers. In short, the conditions they live in are beyond horrible.

According to records and testimony turned up in court, trainers:

  • beat elephants with hooks and other tools, while maintaining the animals are trained using only verbal cues and tenderly cared for
  • rarely give the elephants the rest stops they're supposed on non-stop cross-country trips, on which they're stuffed into boxcars with piles of their own feces
  • claim that train rides "satisfied [the elephants'] 'nomadic' urge to roam"

As a result, the elephants:

  • have herpes, like all the time
  • have "misshapen, ulcerated, abscessed and infected" feet
  • suffer from "rampant tuberculosis"

The circus has done other creepy things, too, like:

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  • infiltrate animal rights groups in a multimillion-dollar spy operation
  • artificially inseminate pre-pubescent elephants
  • take baby elephants away from their mothers years before they're ready to be separated

The kicker is that the head of Feld Entertainment, which operates Ringling Brothers, admitted that without these techniques, the circus couldn't have the elephants perform. That's really the question here. Is this cruelty worth the momentary thrill of seeing an elephant stand on a tiny platform? And could you even enjoy that if you knew what it took to get her up there?

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