Alleged Elephant Abuse at the Circus

Abuse at the circus... A former elephant trainer speaks out about what he calls the repeated mistreatment of elephants at Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Their show is currently in Amarillo.

NewsChannel 10's Marissa Bagg sat down with the trainer and Ringling Brothers to get the story.

Tom Rider paints a horrific picture of the abuse he says goes on daily behind the circus scene. So he's teamed up with several animal welfare groups and filed a lawsuit in hopes to take elephants out of the Ringling Brothers show for good.

"I saw what I call systematic daily abuse, everyday the bull hook is being used to hook or jab an elephant causing pain," says Rider, who use to work with Ringling Brothers for 2 years working with the elephants.

Rider shared this jarring video that appears to show several incidents of abuse where trainers are hitting the elephants with sharp bull hooks.

"I complained to my supervisor but it goes no further, you can't go to the owner and say 'hey they're beating the elephants' because they'll fire you," says Rider.

NewsChannel 10 met with the circus manager at the civic center today and he painted a different picture.

"I've been 10 years with the show and seen nothing but care and respect of the animals each and every day," says Jason Gibson.

Gibson says bull hooks are not used to train this elephant performing in Amarillo, he is voiced trained by his first name.

"If you're doing verbal commands why do you need a bull hook, get rid of your bull hooks," says Rider.

Gibson defends the use of bull hooks.

"A bull hook is like a leash for a dog, it's the extension of the arm, it's a worldy accepted form of guiding an elephant around," says Gibson.

Rider doesn't buy that. He says there is no humane way to have elephants in a circus, and hopes to prove that with the lawsuit.

"It's not about me or money, it's about the abuse of the elephants at the circus at Ringling."

The lawsuit alleges Ringling Brothers is violating the Endangered Species Act, because the Asian Elephant used in their show is on the Endangered Species List.