Circuses: Tools of the Trade
from No Compromise Issue 16
 

The whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other tools used during circus acts and training sessions are reminders that the animals are forced to perform.

Chains
Elephants are chained by one or both front and hind legs during training sessions, transport, and often between shows. Inadequate exercise and prolonged standing in wet, unsanitary conditions may lead to foot problems such as foot rot, cracked nails, and infected cuticles.

Rope
Baby elephants born in breeding compounds are prematurely removed from their mothers for training. During the separation process, calves are kept isolated and tied with ropes at the front leg and back leg. Rope burns may develop as they struggle against the restraints.

Bullhooks
The bullhook, or ankus, has a long handle and a sharp metal hook, and it's used to discipline elephants. Although an elephant's skin is thick, it is sensitive enough for them to feel the pain of an insect bite. Trainers embed the hook into the soft tissue behind the ears and inside the mouth or tender spots under the chin and around the feet.

Whips
The sting of a whip causes lingering, intense pain.

Electrical shock
Like the whip, a jolt of electrical current is excruciatingly painful. Circuses often use electric prods and smaller hand-held shocking devices can be easily concealed.

Sticks, axe handles, baseball bats, metal pipes
These weapons are used to hit and beat restrained animals in order to break their spirits and show them "who's boss."

Firearms
Circuses use wild animals who are by nature unpredictable and dangerous. When animals rebel against a trainer's physical dominance, they sometimes pay with their lives. Rampaging elephants have been gunned down in city streets and caged tigers have been shot to death.

Muzzles
Animals such as bears may be forced to wear muzzles in an attempt to keep them subdued and to discourage them from protecting themselves if they feel threatened. Muzzling can interfere with vision, respiration, eating, and drinking.