Elephant’s Lifetime of Suffering Ignored in Shooting Story

April 12th, 2013 by Deborah Robinson


An elephant used in the circus industry made national headlines this week after someone shot her outside a Ringling circus show in Tupelo, Mississippi on April 9. Carol, one of three elephants used in Ringling’s Gold show, was hit in the neck by a bullet fired at her in the concrete parking lot where the elephants were spending the night.

IDA is horrified by this shooting and gravely concerned for Carol’s welfare and for the trauma that she endured. But one main point is missing in all the coverage on this tragic incident: elephants used in circuses are grievously harmed every day of their lives. Circuses routinely rip elephants from family groups, train and manage elephants through violence and domination, and confine and deprive elephants of everything that is natural to them. A bullet in the neck is just a slight variation on Carol’s everyday suffering.

Ringling is using this shooting for its own benefit, spinning it as an egregious act by an unknown criminal meant to harm an endangered elephant, and contributing a generous reward to highlight its concern. The shooting was indeed egregious, but Ringling’s hypocrisy in all of this is laughable considering that the circus has built a business in which animal abuse is inherent. In 2011, the USDA slapped Ringling with a record fine of $270,000 after filing charges for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including endangering animals and the public by failing to safely handle an elephant who broke away from her handlers and forcing a sick elephant to perform.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regularly ignores its mandate to protect endangered elephants from harm suffered within the circus industry, but is all over the news condemning this one act of violence as a violation of the Endangered Species Act. And the media, which routinely publishes circus fluff pieces, can’t get enough of the drama of this shooting.

Carol, like all elephants used in circuses, has led a miserable life. Carol was snatched from the wild somewhere in Asia in 1974 and shipped to the Hanneford Family Circus. Since then, she’s been dragged around the country, forced to perform in a variety of circuses. In 1990, Carol reportedly killed a longtime circus worker. The circus has held that she was “startled” and “fell on” him, crushing him. Nonetheless, the Hannefords used Carol to give rides until they were hired by Ringling to travel with its Gold unit.

Carol’s injury is, according to the circus, not severe and she is expected to fully recover and be back on the road within two months. For now, she is being held near Springfield, Missouri, with bullet fragments still lodged in her neck. The bullet fragments did not prevent a handler from making her perform for the Today Show cameras. You can also see in this clip one of the Ringling elephant handlers attempting to hide a bullhook behind a bag of fruit.

We’re told that local and federal law enforcement officials are investigating the shooting. A reward for information leading to the identification of the shooter is now more than $30,000. If found, the shooter will face federal charges for harming an endangered Asian elephant, as well as local charges. While we continue to follow this story, we urge everyone, including the media, to remember that while this shooting incident is unique, suffering is a fact of life for elephants in circuses. Her neck will heal, but the abuse that Carol endures on a daily basis will continue as long she is used by Ringling or any other circus.

188 Responses to “Elephant’s Lifetime of Suffering Ignored in Shooting Story”

  1. April 22, 2013 at 9:14 pm, Claud said:

    I will never go to a circus!! We must help the elephants!


  2. April 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm, stacey mcrae said:

    STOP going to circuses and they will be forced to shut down!


  3. April 15, 2013 at 7:03 am, Lashandra Lunderman said:

    Being with wife and sons.


  4. April 13, 2013 at 9:28 pm, margo said:

    Boycott Ringling and the Today Show!


  5. April 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm, Leesa said:

    ALL circuses need to be SHUT DOWN! Animals belong in their natural habitat. Even as a child I would cry seeing animals in a circus. Horrible.


  6. April 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm, R.M Marquez said:

    CRUEL and INHUMANE!! How long will it take before some real action is taken to stop the unnecesary suffering of elephants and other animals ?


  7. April 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm, Lauren Finch said:

    This abuse has been rampant and ongoing for DECADES. I only became aware of this type of thing in the 1980s, and the public outcry has grown with the advent of social media. But I ask you, WHEN WILL THIS STOP??? WHEN will the USDA care to shut these circuses down?? WHY hasn’t it happened yet?? Are our voices not enought to, if not stop it, make a huge dent in this practice of animal abuse???


  8. April 13, 2013 at 10:46 am, Susan Brown said:

    All of the circus animals should be taken away to sanctuaries or released back into the wild if they could survive after being in captivity so long. What an outrage to make animals perform for “our” entertainment. Elephants are subjected to some of the cruelest treatment of all. Please stop these inhumane situations the animals are trapped in and allow them dignity and peace.


  9. April 13, 2013 at 5:47 am, Patrizia Scally said:

    Stop the abuse and enslavement of elephant


  10. April 12, 2013 at 5:30 pm, Kimberly S. said:

    I will be at this circus protesting with a few friends. I wish there were more people who cared in Mississippi!


    • April 13, 2013 at 8:39 am, Save Queenie Save Elephants Page, Facebook said:

      > Thank you for caring. It may start with a few people but there will be more in the future.


  11. April 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm, Tonya Cather said:

    I am so sick of hearing about such horrible mean acts done towards Elephants and other animals! No wonder they eventually go bazirk, then gunned down! They have no life! We treat them terribly and have no respect for these sweet creatures God put on our earth, not to abuse, but, to behold! One day we won’t have any of these animals to worry about anymore, because we are letting these mean, hateful people get away with abusing and killing them all, one by one! Sad world we live in!


  12. April 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm, Clare Mann said:

    Indefensible to treat animals as our entertainment. Research just how they get these animals to go on their back legs like this – they are tortured and to avoid it, must rise on their legs. Consistent and firm leadership by everyone to bring awareness to everyone they know to boycott circuses and then demand diminishes – and shortly supply follows


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