Circus Finally Exposed in Federal Trial

The Animal Welfare Institute’s case against Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, finally went to trial in February. We charged the circus with violating the Endangered Species Act by beating elephants with ankuses and chaining them for unhealthy periods of time. The six-week-long courtroom battle concluded with lead counsel Katherine Meyer’s closing remarks, citing portions of a passage from Rudyard Kipling’s 1895 work, The Second Jungle Book. In the chapter titled “The King’s Ankus,” Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle, is taken to see the king's treasure:

At last [Mowgli] found something really fascinating buried in the coins. It was a three-foot ankus or elephant gode, something like a small boat hook. The top was one round, shining ruby, and eight inches of the handle below it were studded with rough turquoises close together, giving a most satisfactory grip.

Mowgli said to the white cobra, “These coins are by no means good to eat, but this,” he lifted the ankus, “I desire to take away that I may see it in the sun.”

And when they went back in their own jungle and Mowgli made the ankus glitter in the morning light, he was almost as pleased as though he had found a bunch of new flowers stuck in his hair. He woke Bagheera, the tiger, and asked, “For what use was this thorn-point thing made?”

“It was made by men to thrust into the heads of elephants,” said Bagheera. “That thing has tasted the blood of many elephants.”

“But why do they thrust into the heads of elephants?”

“To teach them man's laws. Having neither claws nor teeth, men make these things, and worse.”

“If I had known this I would not have taken it,” said Mowgli. “I will use it no more,” and he threw the ankus in the air. The ankus flew sparkling and buried itself point down thirty yards away between the trees. “So my hands are clean of blood,” said Mowgli, rubbing his hands on the fresh, moist earth.

For an account of what transpired at the trial, see the full story on page 14.

Archival document; for complete account, please see