September 6, 2010

The Truth About Elephants. ~ Tweed Conrad

The facts on elephants and their abuse.


Elephants are the largest land animals in existence. They typically live for 60-70 years, but can live to be much older in the right environment. They reach puberty at about 13 or 14 years old and the females bear offspring until about 50, when they reach menopause.

Elephants thrive within a very supportive social system. The females live  in groups made up of mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and cousins led by the oldest matriarch. The adult males live in solitude or in bachelor herds.

Familiar elephants will entwine trunks, wrestle, caress, and nuzzle each other. Elephants display deep emotions such as love, grief, empathy, compassion and self-awareness.

Mirror self-recognition is a test of self-awareness and cognition used in animal studies. Elephants are able to recognize the fact that the image in the mirror is their own self.  Such abilities are considered the basis for empathy, altruism and higher social interactions.

A new calf is usually the center of attention for herd members. The other elephants gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks. Other females in the herd serve as “allomothers” who help to walk, raise, and protect the young one. These allomothers help babysit while the biological mother finds nutritious food, which gives her milk more nourishment.

Elephants can communicate over long distances by producing and receiving a low-frequency sound, which can travel in the air and through the ground.  These sounds can be felt by the sensitive skin of an elephant’s feet and trunk.

To listen attentively, every member of the herd will lift one foreleg from the ground and face the source of the sound; often laying his trunk on the ground. Presumably, the lifting helps to increase the ground contact and sensitivity of the remaining legs. This ability is also thought to aid their navigation by use of external sources of infrasound.


In the year 2000, poachers killed 60 free-roaming elephants in order to capture their babies and sell them to the entertainment industry. Babies refused to abandon their dead mothers, still trying to nurse on them until they were forcibly pulled away while screaming.

Ringling Brothers has a breeding ground in Florida, where they breed and raise elephants specifically for their circus. According to Sam Haddock, the baby elephants are taken from their mothers before they are weaned by tying the mother to a wall, and tying the baby to another elephant.  The baby and mother scream for each other, while the staff forcibly drag them apart.

A weapon that resembles a fireplace poker (officially called a “bullhook” but called a “guide” by the circus) is used to force elephants to perform and do unnatural tricks. Former elephant trainer Sam Haddock says, “The bullhook has one purpose: to inflict pain and punishment. I should know; I used to make them.” They also use pitchforks, blowtorches and electric prods.

Ringling employee’s apply a powder to conceal the wounds and stop the bleeding on elephants that have been hooked too hard.  This makes it so that the injuries are not visible during the show. This is called “spot work.”

Ringling Elephant Department Head, Joe Frisco, testified in court that he whacks the elephants on their legs, the tips of their trunks, and under their chins with the bullhook. A former co-worker of Frisco’s testified that he also used electric prods to shock them if they were not cooperating.

When the elephants urinate and defecate from fear during the abuse, they are beaten and electrocuted for this. If they defecate during a performance, they are beaten for this after they exit the ring. The elephants are most often left purposely dehydrated to lessen this occurrence.

In 2009, an undercover video shows Frisco’s son, Joey, beating and whipping the elephants on their heads and faces and calling them derogatory names.

Ringling owner, Ken Field, testified in court that all his elephant handlers hit the elephants.



To train a baby elephant to stand on its head, a rope is tied around the baby’s trunk and pulled down between their front legs.  Trainers then use the bullhook to jab the tender spot behind the baby’s head so the baby won’t try and raise it. They also jab the tender spots on the baby’s feet so it will keep its feet raised.

To train the baby to lie down, his legs are tied up and pulled in different directions, so that the baby is slammed down to the ground, while being poked with bullhooks.

To train a baby to sit on a pedestal, ropes are tied around their legs and they are forcibly pulled back onto the pedestal and jabbed with the bullhooks.

During the abusive so-called “training process,” the baby screams and struggles, while loud rock music is played to drown out their hopeless cries.


In the circus, most animals die prematurely from stress, misery and disease. Most circus elephants now carry a strain of tuberculosis that is highly contagious to humans. Other rampant strains are elephant pox and herpes.

Circus elephants have their 4 legs chained, which renders them immobile. They are transported in travel trailers with unregulated temperature (often freezing cold or unbearably hot). Upon arrival to the circus site, they stored in the parking lots outside of the tents.


Ringling Brothers is currently being sued by the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Animal Protection Institute, and The Fund for Animals, because of their practiced animal abuse.


Do not go to the circus! Encourage your local township to not host a traveling circus. Many townships have already done this successfully. Let them know they are not welcomed and that we do not support their abuse!

Some excellent websites that you can visit for more information are:






Tweed Conrad is an author and animal rights activist. She wrote the
book, “Oscar Wilde in Quotation,” published in 2006 by McFarland
Publishers – the largest collection of Oscar Wilde quotations in one
place. She currently enjoys speaking and writing for the elephants,
who cannot speak for themselves.  Email her at
[email protected]

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