Rescue Mentally-Ill Circus Elephants


Target: Tom Vilsack, Secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Goal: Seize the mentally ill and highly distressed elephants “Viola” and “Kelly” from the Circus World Museum

Two elephants from the Circus World Museum were recently caught on video swaying back and forth as a violinist played music. The musician has since uploaded and presented the video as “Elephants Dancing to Violin,” but the truth is much more heartbreaking. Animal experts identify the behavior to be clear signs of “zoochosis,” a mental illness that arises from being forcibly confined for so long.

Elephants are extremely social creatures and require both space to roam and other elephants with whom to interact. In fact, elephants are very similar to people in the way they socialize: celebrating birth, playing with siblings, babysitting for relatives, even grieving death. Circuses are notorious for denying elephants these stimulating activities, which are especially fundamental to a young elephant’s social development. Instead, the highly sensitive creatures are poked with bullhooks, whipped, and beaten until they can perform meaningless tricks. When not performing, the animals are chained in place for hours and prohibited from exploring. The culmination of all these punishments and restrictions is “repetitive, obsessive behavior…never seen in wild elephants,” according to animal rights group PETA.

The “dancing” seen in the musician’s video is not unlike the image of a mental patient rocking back and forth in extreme anxiety. The elephants, “Viola” and “Kelly,” are long-time veterans of the infamously harsh Carson & Barnes Circus, and have begun exhibiting serious symptoms linked to their abuse there.

Sign the following petition and demand that the United States Department of Agriculture seize these severely traumatized creatures. Torturing elephants into performing is cruel, but mocking their mental illness is simply heartless.


Dear Mr. Vilsack,

Two very mentally ill elephants have been recorded “dancing” at the Circus World Museum in Wisconsin. In reality, the “swaying” behavior is a telltale sign of “zoochosis,” an anxiety-disorder arising from long-term confinement. Much of the general public remains oblivious to the harsh treatment of circus creatures, especially elephants. But as secretary for the USDA—an agency that has issued countless health citations to numerous circuses—you are aware of the common cruelty in this industry. Please, rescue these animals from further agony.

“Viola” and “Kelly” are two veteran elephants that originally performed for Carson & Barnes Circus. Now these poor creatures are exhibiting serious symptoms sustained from all the abusive training over the years. PETA claims the captivity, punishment, and physical restriction inherent in circus life produces “repetitive, obsessive behavior…never seen in wild elephants.” The swaying action is akin to the back-and-forth rocking motion of severely anxious humans. Even more saddening is the inadvertent mockery of these animals’ serious condition; the video has been labeled “Elephants Dancing to Violin,” disguising the fact that these elephants are extremely traumatized.

In light of this tragic news, I urge you to seize Viola and Kelly from Circus World Museum and relocate them to animal sanctuaries. These creatures are severely troubled and should be rehabilitating, not “entertaining” ignorant patrons.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Writing this awful Vilsack does no good…. he enjoys seeing these animals suffer…he sucks….

  2. joan johnson says:

    Just to let folks know: The Oregon zoo has 8 elephants in a small enclosure 3 acres I believe. The zoo boasts about the elephant ‘program’. Three of those elephants currently have TB . Our Metro counsel (the obscure board in charge of creating money for the city refuses to listen to the local group FOZE. Free Oregon Zoo Elephants. Packy is a 50+ year old soul who has spent his entire life locked up. He is seriously mentally and physical I’ll and we want him released to sanctuary. Also the zoo wants to breed elephants to sell to circuses, etc. Please help by going to FOZE website. Thank you.

  3. Karen Reger says:

    Release these elephants to a sanctuary. This is disgusting and pathetic. How can to live with yourselves to do this to innocent creatures

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