Bullhooks brandished at Ringlings elephant parade

On the 19th of March, Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus force-marched the elephants forced to perform in their show from South Capitol Street to the Verizon Center. The elephants were accompanied by handlers in the shadows besides them, brandishing bullhooks used to punish elephants who defy them.

Video of bullhooks on parade and interview with former elephant trainer

Glory, exotic animals, and human performers selected for appearance and skill at a distance

Glory, exotic animals, and human performers selected for appearance and skill at a distance

Up-close reality tells another story of the circus. Here an elephant handler carries a bullhook. Ringlings wouldn't dare let the elephants out on the street or in public without the ever-present threat of punishment

Up-close reality tells another story of the circus. Here an elephant handler carries a bullhook. Ringlings wouldn’t dare let the elephants out on the street or in public without the ever-present threat of punishment

Not everyone though Ringlings and their parade were such a great idea

Not everyone though Ringlings and their parade were such a great idea

According to a former trainer of circus elephants who showed up with a PETA contingent, bullhooks have been declared a deadly weapon by at least one police department. A bullhook has a sharp point on the end like a spear for pushing, and a second point hooked back towards the wielder for pulling. It’s kind of like a boat hook except that it is sharpened.

Near the end of the parade, one of the PETA folks who had embedded in the sea of people who walked alongside the parade yelled that the handlers were striking the elephants with the bullhooks. I was not able to slew the camera around fast enough to catch them in the act.

At the Verizon Center, the PETA folks gathered into a single contingent with their signs, and the former elephant trainer spoke out.

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