Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey entertainers and animals perform for huge crowds, but behind the curtain some say the lively show is full of misery and sadness.
Animal rights advocates are asking San Diegans to boycott the circus next week because of hidden-camera video that PETA said shows circus trainers beating elephants.
“This is the longest investigation we have done with the circus and this is the first time we were able to get backstage,” PETA spokesperson Lisa Lange said.
The video, shot secretly by PETA, shows circus trainers hitting elephants with bull hooks, which are legal and used for training.
“Bull hooks are like fire place pokers they have sharp ends big heavy sticks,” Lange said.
PETA said the video was shot this year by one of its undercover investigators who posed as a circus employee.
“We would like to see the USDA confiscate the 11 elephants on the red unit,” Lange said.
The circus denies the allegations. A statement issued by Ringling Bros. questions the context of the video, says it's "deceptively edited" and that they are "committed to providing the very best care for all their animals."
The question is; will the abuse allegations deter San Diegans from going to next week's circus?
“I don’t think I would participate in it, spend money on it, if that's what they are doing with the elephants,” San Diego resident Tosha Hopkins said.
Another resident said he wants a little more proof before he passes judgment.
“I don’t think just a video would do it, it might be blown out of proportion or misconstrued in some way,” Ed Torres said.
PETA has filed criminal complaints against Ringling Bros. in seven states following their investigation.
The circus opens at the San Diego Sports Arena Wednesday August 5. PETA protesters promise to be there as well.