By Logan Scherer
An apparently agitated elephant reportedly charged into the arena during Ringling's afternoon pre-show in Columbia, South Carolina, on Saturday, endangering about 100 spectators. Most attendees hurried away from the scene, and luckily, no one was injured, but the potential exists for injury or death when elephants rampage. Since 1990, dangerous incidents involving captive elephants in the U.S. have resulted in 13 human deaths and more than 135 human injuries.
The frightened elephant may have been trying to escape from the bullhook abuse that commonly takes place backstage at Ringling's shows. As documented in a PETA video—which was taken over a period of several months and released last July—of the same Ringling unit that is performing in Columbia, elephants are struck repeatedly with bullhooks (a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker that trainers wield to strike, stab, hook, prod, and intimidate elephants in order to make them obey). We are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to check this elephant for signs of bullhook abuse as well as to ensure that she is treated for any injuries sustained when she ran amok and that she is permanently removed from travel.
This is the second complaint with the USDA that we have filed against Ringling regarding its treatment of elephants—in less than a week. A few hours of "entertainment" at the expense of animals intimidated into performing dangerous and unnatural tricks is never worth the trauma inflicted on those animals or the danger to spectators and their children.