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Published on Sep 2, 2007
A PETA undercover investigator obtained footage in March 1999 of vicious elephant beatings at Carson & Barnes Circus. Tim Frisco, the circus' animal care director and longtime elephant trainer, was caught on tape violently attacking, shocking with an electric prod, and screaming and cursing at endangered Asian elephants. Frisco is heard on the tape instructing other elephant trainers to hurt the elephants until they scream, "holler," and run away; to use both hands to beat the elephants with a bullhook; and to sink the bullhook's metal spike into their flesh and twist it back and forth until they scream in pain. Says Frisco on the tape, "Sink that hook into 'em ... when you hear that screaming then you know you got their attention. ... Right here in the barn. You can't do it on the road. ... I'm not gonna touch her in front of a thousand people. ... She's gonna fucking do what I want and that's just fucking the way it is." Frisco can also be heard shouting, "I am the boss, I will kick your fucking ass," with regard to the elephants.
Frisco is "still employed by Carson & Barnes."
Footage of Tim Frisco's abusive training session can be viewed on PETA's web site Circuses.com.
Sadly though, elephants are typically broken and made to fear their handlers by means of force. Ray Ryan, who worked with elephants at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, is now convinced that most elephant trainers use punishment to dominate elephants.
In his book, Keepers of the Ark: An Elephant's View of Captivity, Ryan describes the attitude that persists among most elephant keepers: "How dare the elephants fight back when we ask them to do a certain behavior? They're on this planet to serve us in any way we see fit, and if any one of them chooses to do otherwise, he or she will pay the price."
Bullhooks are routinely used by elephant trainers because, according to Veterinarian Sara Winikoff and other elephant experts, an elephant will not voluntarily perform difficult, physically strenuous and painful maneuvers many times a day on command. "No form of positive reinforcement alone will elicit these unnatural behaviors," says Winikoff.
Jane Garrison, PETA's elephant specialist, agrees. As Garrison told the Today show host Katie Couric, when she appeared with Pacelle to discuss Ringling's treatment of animals, it's ridiculous to think that circuses are training animals with positive reinforcement. "If that were the case," said Garrison, "the trainers would be carrying a bag of food treats, not a bullhook..."
In addition to Tim Frisco's violent beatings, PETA's investigator also videotaped a handler at Carson & Barnes Circus using a blowtorch on an elephant's skin to remove hair, and chained elephants and caged bears rocking and swinging their heads endlessly--the extreme stereotypic behavior caused by mental distress.