Protesters Slam Cole Bros. for Alleged Animal Abuse in Return Visit

The circus is back in town, and a group of animal activists say abuses are rampant.

Corrine White looks into the eyes of the elephants slowly lumbering around a 60-foot circle, kids riding atop their backs, outside the Cole Bros. Circus and sees only one thing:


For White, one of eight protesters who came out against the circus’s annual return to West Deptford Wednesday evening, the lack of empathy among circus trainers and lack of education among circus patrons is a combination that spells horrific conditions for the animals—elephants, tigers and everything else—under the big top.

“It just stabs me right through the heart,” she said.

Confined to a strip along Crown Point Road and blocked from the red-and-yellow circus tent by a string of box trucks, White and her fellow protesters did what they could to convince the families streaming across the road from attending the show, handing out pamphlets outlining alleged mistreatment, talking with those who would listen and displaying giant photographs of what they said was elephant abuse.

Plenty of patrons grabbed the leaflets before heading in, and a few stopped to talk with the protesters, who were otherwise a quiet bunch.

“Now I don’t want to go in,” said Amy Williams—though she ended up heading inside with her family a few moments later.

There were a few success stories for the protesters. Rachel Ogden, one of the leaders of the group, managed to convince a handful of people to turn away, including one father who opted to take his daughter to the movies, instead.

“I just got the chills—it’s awesome,” Ogden said as the two walked back across Crown Point Road. “It’s why we’re out here.”

Besides the alleged abuses, Ogden accused the circus of putting families in danger because of the way they handle animals, citing cases where elephants and white tigers broke free and caused chaos and injuries.

The group came prepared with a litany of alleged misdeeds—including an undercover video showing alleged elephant abuse—and citations and substantial fines from the USDA against Cole Bros. for various violations of the Animal Welfare Act and other federal statutes, including a $15,000 settlement earlier this year to close a number of those violations.

Those abuses won’t go away until the animals are taken out of the performances, several of the protesters said.

“Wildlife belongs in the wild,” said Ellen Garrity.

She pointed to the blown-up photos of bullhooks and whips used in training the circus animals, and questioned how anyone could find those tools acceptable.

“They feel pain just as much as we do,” she said. “[Performing] is not normal for them.”

The success of troupes like Cirque du Soleil and the fact that Cole Bros. will actually perform sans animals, if asked, is proof enough for White that it’s simply unnecessary to have exotic animals as performers.

“I would promote this circus if it didn’t have animals,” she said.

Cole Bros. marketing director Tom Renesto, who kept an eye on the group for much of their protest, denied the protesters’ claims and said flat-out that the circus doesn’t abuse its animals.

“They’re protesting what they believe,” he said. “I don’t believe it—I never have, I never will.”

Ellie August 30, 2012 at 12:58 PM
The circuses use to be masters at illusion but with the internet at our fingertips the public has been allowed to peek behind Big Top curtains and what we’ve seen is shocking and sickening to realize the cruel training methods and inhumane life these animals are forced to live just to entertain us and profit the circus industry. This exotic circus animal abuse is so egregious that House of Representative Bill 3359 the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act has been submitted to congress showing scientific and physical evidence of this cruelty. http://federalcircusbill.org/index.php Want to teach your families about elephant’s natural behaviors, follow this baby elephant orphanage in Africa. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paPkeVBoGZk&feature=related Once you learn about the natural behaviors of elephant, tigers, chimps and other exotic animals the thought of going to the circus will repulse you.
sue whit August 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM
we went to the Circus last night and it was splendid . These animals looked well cared for,. some better then I guess some humans, the dogs were cute and coifed well and sure looked happy to me. There is not alot opf animals in the circus just elephants pony rides tigers and Poodles the rest was Circus acts, clowns, cannon shooting out a man, floor acrobats, a cool illusion act and a woman whose clothes kept changing it was FUN inexpensive night out and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ellie August 30, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Children depend on their parents to make correct choices for them. A child can live a happy life without attending a circus with animals. There are fun events all over the place that do not exploit wild animals. As a parent it is up to us to raise a compassionate and considerate kid. It is clear you did not spend any time looking through all the evidences. Cole Bros has a documented USDA record of animal abuse and neglect, in the last two years they’ve paid fines of $165,000. While the dogs may look happy the same cannot be said for the elephants and tigers, these animals are beaten and live in constant confinement. Tim Frisco is the elephant handler you saw with the elephants, this is him behind closed doors training elephants to perform for you and your family. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iouGQD6lf6A Does this look like humane treatment to you?
WDNeedsHelp August 30, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Umm I saw two people stand in a cage with about 9 very large Tigers... I don't know about you but if I were abusing those large cats there is NO way I would get locked in a steel cage with them. I think these activists are a bunch of self-righteous blow hards with miserable lives so they won't be happy until the make others lives miserable too....
Ellie August 30, 2012 at 06:42 PM
If believing that animals should be treated and trained humanely makes me self-righteous, blow hard activist, you can call me whatever name you chose. Once upon a time slavery, child abuse, racism, and beating your spouse was OK, now we know that it was not OK, just like it is not OK to continue to ignore this animal abuse just because the circus has been entertaining us for decades under the disguise of offering wholesome family entertainment.
sherri stern August 30, 2012 at 06:53 PM
You have no idea what you are talking about!! YOU are ignorant and obviously don't like animals!!!!!
Ellie August 30, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Oh, but I do know what I'm talking about and can back it up with documented USDA fines. In 2012 Cole Bros Circus paid $15,000 USDA fine over the lack of medical care for sick elephants among other charges. http://www.dm.usda.gov/oaljdecisions/120409_11-0316_CD_AWA_JohnWPughandColeBrothersCircusInc.pdf In 2011 Cole Bros Circus and owner John Pugh plead guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act. They were fined over $150,000, plus several years on probation and 100 hours of community service. http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/February/11-enrd-233.html I love elephants, tigers, lions, chimps and other circus animals so much that I do not want them abused just to make them perform unnatural tricks to entertain me. That is why I refuse to support this animal cruelty for entertainment.
redneckwillie3 August 30, 2012 at 10:07 PM
what about ringling brothetrs were they ever fined.that circus has been around for decades.never heard of abuse with that circus. besides when your handling an animal that weighs 2 tons you got to show then who's boss.the circus is for kids and their families what they don't know won't hurt them.animal activists always got a lot to say but their always wrong
William Libby August 30, 2012 at 10:18 PM
It is well documented that WDNeedsHelp is Sam Cianfarini (who has done far from help WD). First every student at the high school is a heroin addict then it was our children shouldn't have a recreation program. Now, people who care about human and animal rights are blow hards. When will it end Sam...and when will everyone see him for what he really is!
Ellie August 30, 2012 at 11:14 PM
An Internet background check on Ringling Bros shows as recently as November 2011 the USDA/APHIS fined Ringling Bros a record $270,000 for 24 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/downloads/FEI_signed_agreement.pdf http://www.aphis.usda.gov/foia/ringling_brothers/Ringling%20Inspection%20Rpts%202007%20thru%202011.pdf http://www.aphis.usda.gov/foia/ringling_brothers/RB_June_10_2011.pdf Your comment certainly reflexes what former zookeeper Ray Ryan said about his experiences about controlling elephants. “It….makes you feel big. It is a real display of machismo. . . . You could show you were a real man if you could beat down a big powerful animal. And I could always tell who had had a fight with their wife the morning or night before. We have not changed much since cave days. Men are still beating up women, still trying to run the world with domination. And if you notice, all the elephants we work with are females." http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bear-i...204/true-colors
James Moss August 31, 2012 at 11:27 AM
You seem like the sort of person who is not happy unless animals are miserable.You've freely stated you go to the circus so you are clearly happy to support animal abuse
sue whit August 31, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I guess all zoos should be closed too. Your gripes should be with the Lions club Try were the sponsors. I enjoyed the circus alot. Its been around forever.I will not stop going. But that is my right. We all can agree to disagree
Ellie August 31, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I have voiced my gripes with the Lions and their sponsors. I am just trying to educate people about the inhumane lives the elephants and the other exotic animals live in constant confinement. I’m not talking about eliminating domesticated animal shows like the dog act. Yes, we can agree to disagree but a quick study about elephants and you soon realize that they mirror humans. They can feel every emotion humans do, they mourn their dead for years. Their family unit resembles humans. They live as long as humans. If your family loves baby elephant’s check out this baby elephant orphanage in Africa called David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. You cannot help but fall in love with these baby elephants who will resemble the care a human baby requires to survive. Watch them grow up and then return to the wild. With the internet at our fingertips Africa is just a click away. https://www.facebook.com/thedswt?v=wall.
Anne Norman Hastings September 01, 2012 at 12:20 AM
There are people that will always turn a blind eye to animal abuse to be sadistically "entertained", and they'll teach their children to enjoy it too. Bullfights, dogfights, cockfights, calf-roping, pig chasing, goat wrestling, bronc & bull riding, etc. The Romans used to watch men fight to their deaths in arenas and that was entertainment too. As people become more educated, minds will change one by one, just as it's always been done. I just feel sorry for the animals that have to put up with our ignorance until that time.
Corinne White September 01, 2012 at 12:23 AM
My life is not at all miserable.....if the truth makes you upset ..good it should...this is abuse for money.....large cats are too afraid to do anything because they are beat into submission....you are ignorant and really need to learn the facts....
Corinne White September 01, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I have contacted the Lions Club...what you DON"T get is that this is NOT AN OPINION!!!!! THis is documented proof of animal abuse and these circuses have been fined......I wonder if someone you cared about was being abused ....would you pay money to watch it......sad
Anne Norman Hastings September 01, 2012 at 12:42 AM
An event like this brings in $$ for the Lion's Club - that's why they bring the circus to town. They don't think past the $$ and they don't ask if it's humane - in fact, they don't want to KNOW if it's humane. They're counting their profit, not wondering if the animals are abused. As with ANY business that abuses and exploits animals, it's always about $$ isn't it? The suffering of animals is rarely on their minds and certainly not in the forefront when the almighty dollar is waving in their face.
Anne Norman Hastings September 01, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Redneckwillie3 - like the name. It fits.
C. Parola September 01, 2012 at 02:28 PM
The FACTS are that elephants (& other wild animals) are horribly and cruelly confined in order to be transported about the country and only temporarily kept at the various locations for usually a day or two. They're typically chained by the ankle and forced to stand so they can move only a step or two in any direction, and kept this way almost every hour of each day. Sometimes after setting up they may have an extremely small outside area surrounded by a electric fence. During the night and in bad weather,they're forced to spend it inside a truck. And when en route to their next location they are hauled around in the back of trucks for hours and hours, and then when arriving, have to stay in those trucks typically for many more hours while waiting for things to get setup. For more on this read this Pulitzer Prize winning article: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2011/10/ringling-bros-elephant-abuse?page=1 There also is the extremely well documented, and admitted to, physically abusive training techniques to force the animals to do the "tricks". Educate yourself & visit any one of countless respected websites, such as those of ADI (Animal Defenders International), www.circuses.com, www.morebeautifulwild.com. Also there is an excellent publication by Animal Defenders International on the Science of Suffering (re wild animals in traveling circuses) which you can read: https://www.ad-international.org/admin/downloads/SCS_US_rep_FINAL_Jun%2015%2008_LOW%20RES.pdf
sue whit September 01, 2012 at 02:37 PM
And how about the inhumane treatment in Africa of elephants??????poaching? And that is in their native environment. I think its admirable fighting for a cause you deeply care about. Keep fighting for it. I loved this circus, and the enjoyment was far more then the animals.
BanCircusAnimals September 01, 2012 at 07:45 PM
In July of 2011 the USDA filed charges against the Cole Bros. Circus for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act including “failure to provide veterinary care to an emaciated elephant, failure to handle an elephant in a way that minimized the risk of harm to the public and the elephant, handlers who lacked the training and knowledge to handle tigers and elephants in public, and selling tigers without a dealer license.” These violations should have resulted in a substantial fine, but on April 9, 2012, Cole Bros. reached a $15,000 settlement with the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. As of February 2008, Cole Bros. no longer has its own USDA license and leases animal acts from other circuses, including Carson & Barnes Circus which the USDA fined for elephant abuse after employees were caught on videotape beating elephants with bullhooks and shocking them with electric prods. Many of the animal acts used by Cole Bros. have been cited by the USDA for numerous violations including failing to provide veterinary care. In 2011, Cole Bros. and its president pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally selling two Asian elephants and were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay more than $150,000 in fines. Cole Brothers Fact Sheet: http://www.mediapeta.com/peta/PDF/Cole_Bros_Circus_Factsheet.pdf
BanCircusAnimals September 01, 2012 at 07:47 PM
The current elephant "handler/trainer" with Cole Brothers is Tim Frisco, notorious for his brutal “training” of elephants. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ulw7RtZoao Animals in circuses and traveling shows suffer horrific abuse, cruelty, neglect and exploitation. Magnificent big cats like lions and tigers are housed in cramped cages, majestic elephants are shackled and chained in trucks and train box cars; “training” methods utilize violence, fear, and intimidation to make animals perform ridiculous unnatural stunts. Not only is the physical abuse appalling, but the deprivation of any natural behaviors, choices and instincts is cruel. Countries around the world, as well as municipalities in the United States, have partial or full bans on circus with animals. The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, H.R. 3359 would amend the A.W.A. to restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in circuses and traveling shows. http://breakthechainus.com/ The overwhelming evidence and documentation of the abuse animals endure in circuses is irrefutable. The more knowledgeable the public becomes about the suffering of circus animals and the serious safety issues involved with using dangerous animals in performances, the less inclined they will be to support, promote, employ and attend circuses that abuse and exploit animals. If we all make a more informed and compassionate choice we can end this abuse and cruelty.
Corinne White September 01, 2012 at 09:24 PM
"and the enjoyment was far more then the animals" Good point Sue.....the circus doesn't need the animals for you to enjoy it....And many of us do fight for other types of animal rights causes
Corinne White September 01, 2012 at 09:26 PM
redkneckwillie3..if you are married I pity your wife.....Oh yeah show them who is boss...what an idiot you are


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