Award-winning actress Viola Davis is speaking up for circus elephants.
According to PETA, Davis sent a letter to legislators in her home state of Rhode Island, asking them to back a bill that offers greater protection to circus elephants. The proposed legislation would protect elephants from the cruel use of bullhooks, as well as extended periods of chaining.
In the letter, Davis writes, “An undercover investigation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus revealed that elephants were struck repeatedly with bullhooks backstage just before performances in order to intimidate them and remind them that they must do as they’re told or suffer the painful consequences. And recent sworn affidavits from arena workers on opposite sides of the country report barbaric bullhook beatings by Ringling staff, including an incident in which an animal attendant repeatedly and forcefully struck a chained elephant on the leg. Just last year, a handler with Piccadilly Circus was caught repeatedly striking an elephant with a bullhook on the face and trunk.”
She also says, “Elephants used in the circus are routinely chained on hard surfaces for extensive periods, which leads to painful arthritis and foot problems—the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized. Ringling’s own records, for example, show that elephants are chained for 26 consecutive hours on average—and up to 100 hours straight—during their frequent trips from city to city.”
While a ban on elephants (and other animals) in circuses would be ideal, this is a good start. Here’s hoping that Davis’s star support will help push the bill through, as Rhode Island regularly receives visits from traveling circuses, including Ringling Bros., Cole Bros., and Picadilly Circus.
Rhode Island residents can add their voices to Davis’s here. And everyone can sign this PETA petition to end circus cruelty once and for all (one look at the photo on the page is all the convincing you’ll need to add your name).