Video: Circus faces abuse charges

updated 7/23/2009 12:19:51 PM ET 2009-07-23T16:19:51

An animal-rights group has released a video showing what it says is the abuse of Ringling Bros. circus elephants.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on Wednesday released what it says is a secretly recorded video showing handlers striking elephants backstage. PETA says someone affiliated with the group made the recording during a circus tour earlier this year.

Circus spokeswoman Amy McWethy denied PETA's abuse claims. "Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey loves its elephants," she said.

The four-minute video shows circus trainers using bullhooks — tools with a 4 to 8 pound handles and pointed metal hooks — to strike elephants across the head, legs and body. In one section of the video, a trainer curses at an elephant then strikes it with a bullhook while telling it to "back up."

McWethy said bullhooks " ... are used harmlessly by elephant trainers throughout the world."

In a statement, Feld Entertainment Inc., which owns Ringling, called the PETA video "questionable in its context regarding the portrayal of circus animal handlers" and said the circus was in compliance with federal, state and local regulations at the time PETA says the video was made.

"Ringling Bros. is proud of its efforts to care for and increase the population of the endangered Asian elephant and we encourage people to come see for themselves that the animals are thriving in our care," the company said.

More on PETA   | elephants

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