The majority of elephants used in circuses were captured
in the wild when they were babies. In 2000, poachers killed
60 free-roaming female elephants so that their babies could
be collected and sold to the entertainment industry. The still-nursing
elephants, all under the age of 3, refused to abandon their
dead mothers, even attempting to suckle from their corpses.
Elephants are chained in dirty railroad
cars for the majority of their lives, often with no heat or
air conditioning, left to bake in the sun.
They are purposely kept dehydrated to reduce
the mess; elephants need 50 gallons of water a day.
Even when they are not in transit, elephants
are usually chained; male elephants, because they are more
difficult to control, are permanently kept chained.
As punishment, all four legs are chained,
rendering the elephant immobile.
Elephants are kept isolated from contact
with other elephants; for these highly social animals, this
is very stressful.
Bull hooks, electric prods, pitchforks,
and blowtorches are just a few of the standard tools used
to 'train' elephants. These methods are so common that Ringling
employs someone to apply a powder to conceal the wounds and
stop the bleeding of elephants that have been hooked too hard
so that the injuries are not visible during the show. This
is called "spot work."