I share J.P. Devine’s relief that elephants will no longer be abused in the Ringling Bros. circus (”Remembering the elephants, circus dreams,” Jan. 20). But readers deserve to know the truth about the fate of these animals. In addition to being used in cancer research, they’re subjected to conditions that are little better than life on the road.

According to the sworn testimony of Ringling’s misleadingly named “Center for Elephant Conservation,” the facility chains elephants for 16 hours a day on average, and sometimes for up to 22.5 hours.

Ringling also insists on continuing to handle them with bullhooks — weapons with sharp hooks on the end that resemble fireplace pokers and are used to hurt and punish elephants, weapons that sanctuaries eschew, most zoos have phased out, and many jurisdictions have banned. As if that weren’t enough for these long-suffering, sensitive animals, they’re also shocked with electric prods.

Chilling photographs from the compound even show electric prods and bullhooks used on baby elephants. As a former Ringling trainer testified, “Raising a baby elephant at Ringling is like raising a kid in jail.”

These majestic animals, who have endured so much, deserve better than jail — much better.

The United States is blessed to have not just one but two accredited elephant sanctuaries, one in California and one in Tennessee. At these refugees, retired circus and zoo elephants roam vast acreage in the company of other elephants, never again subjected to punishment.

This is the fate the Ringling elephants — and all of the animals exploited for the circus’s acts — deserve. With nearly 150 years of profiting off of animal abuse, it’s really the least Ringling can do — for the elephants and for all of the other animals.

Delcianna J. Winders

Animal Law & Policy Fellow

Harvard Law School

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