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In "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus enthralls 86-year-old 'kid'" (Tribune, Sept. 21), Tom Wharton recounts how his mother watched people carting them on and off stage and asked whether the animals were happy. It's a reasonable question, asked by many circus-goers. The answer is, no.

At Ringling's training center, baby elephants are ripped away from their mothers and have their spirits broken. They are tied down with rope, shocked with electric prods and gouged with "bullhooks," a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker.

Since 2000, Ringling has been cited and fined for serious violations of federal animal welfare laws, including failing to provide veterinary care and causing physical harm and discomfort to elephants. Just last year, Ringling paid the largest fine in circus history — $270,000 — for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Ringling is only able to stay afloat because its ticket sales revenue outpaces the fines it must pay for violating the law. This perverse and unethical business model ensures that animals will continue to be abused so long as people — many well-meaning animal lovers who don't know what happens behind the scenes — continue to buy tickets.

Jeremy Beckham

Salt Lake City

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