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Last Chain on Billie : How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top by Carol Bradley : Review Part 3

More Lessons Learned From Last Chain on Billie

– Learn what Sammy Haddock, a former Ringling Bros. elephant trainer, had to say about the abuse of their circus elephants (& he was once fully engaged in that abuse). This is particularly poignant & heartbreaking: “He saw elephants being beaten who had no idea why they were being punished.” Haddock said, ‘ They will start randomly lifting one leg, then another, and another, lifting their trunk, hoping some trick will satisfy the trainer and make the beating stop.”(p. 217-222)

And to demonstrate just how corrupt the “system” really is, especially when one has wealth/power consider this (p. 228): Kenneth H. Vail was ultimately hired by Ringling to be its new Compliance Officer (A legal ruling, as part of a settlement to a case, required that Ringling hire “someone to ensure that the company complies with the Animal Welfare Act”. ) And who would Ringling hire? The very person who “had looked away as USDA’s chief legal counsel on animal welfare cases yet he also “admitted to Mother Jones Magazine, in a blistering article about Ringling’s practices: ‘If I were an elephant, I wouldn’t want to be with Feld Entertainment. It’s a tough life.’” Contradicting oneself much??

_Some “sanctuaries” are not all that they appear. Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Arkansas (p. 145) “was never accredited by the Association of Sanctuaries and did not abide by Sanctuary standards. Moreover, Riddle was known to use hot shots on his elephants.” Yet Cuneo (p. 147) insisted on sending some of his elephants there (when a court of law ordered that a decision be made). This after Cuneo and his team of lawyers had found every loophole in the law and exploited every weakness of the USDA for many, many years.

-The National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Florida established by “73 accredited zoos” claims it will act as an elephant sanctuary (sans bullhooks). But Bradley writes, “it is unclear how sanctuary-like the center will actually be.” (p. 203) And Have Trunk Will Travel, (p. 202) who has had dealings with the Oregon Zoo, has definitely not maintained a stellar reputation.

(Read more about Have Trunk Will Travel in this post: ‘Water For Elephants’ Film Elephants Suffered From Bullhook Prods and Electric Shocks : Hidden Training Video By Animal Defenders International Reveals Alleged Elephant Abuse)

-“The Conundrum With Zoos” (Chapter 16) : This chapter gives detailed accounts of what is purported by zoos (regarding their elephant care, elephant breeding programs & such) which is in direct contrast to what inspectors & elephant activists have actually found. (On p. 196 we hear about Toni the elephant, at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. who had such “cracked and infected feet from standing on concrete” for so many years “that she lost more than 900 pounds”. The elephant “had to be euthanized at the age of 39”.)


photo credit: St. Martins Press from The Daily Mail


-Read about an elephant named Sadie (p. 133) and how she reacted to the pain inflicted upon her by her trainers from the Robbins Bro. Circus. Those elephant trainers will never be likely to forget that moment; rather they will have it indelibly imprinted upon their minds.

-Read about a baby elephant named Kenny (p210) who was “one of Ringling’s star performers.” This 3 year old elephant’s only crime was to become ill before a show one day. How could Feld Entertainment / Kenneth Feld / Ringling Circus have allowed this to happen to Kenny?

– And what are we to believe? What really happened to Benjamin, the baby elephant (who had once appeared on TV)? The story given by Feld Entertainment or a more plausible explanation told by witnesses at the scene (of the incident). Please read this account. (p. 211-212)

-And did baby elephant Benjamin deserve the treatment he got? (p. 216)


“Over the years, how could the USDA inspectors see the same things I was seeing- filth, neglect, abuse, emaciated elephants, sick elephants, dangerous elephants, neurotic elephants- and just leave those animals there to suffer.” Debbie Leahy PETA referring to her time spent at the Hawthorn Barn in Illinois while Billie was waiting to be rescued and just after one of Billie’s elephant companions had died. (p. 163-164)

-…”Billie had done nothing to merit the mistreatment. ..Billie’s crime was that she wasn’t willing to tolerate the confines of captivity…(p. 160)


Image: CC Flickr  Elephant Tricks at African Lion Safari    Elephant Playing Basketball  …Really???


-Blais…had remembered her (Billie) from African Lion Safari outside Toronto..he saw in her a ”strength of character, a determination not to surrender herself to the life she’d been conscripted to” Yet “seared into her memory was every wrong ever done to her. What had happened in Billie’s past, she “had not forgotten”. (p. 162)


Image: CC Flickr    Elephant Tricks at African Lion Safari    Elephant on the Balancing on Front Legs


-“Chains, Hooks, and Hot Shots” details “dominance training” (Have you ever seen a captive elephant with ears that were  “torn to tatters”? Have you ever wondered how a performing elephant could possibly have ears that looked that way? Well, now you will learn how this could possibly happen. And, Bradley explains, it is all caused by humans as these elephants were not likely to have been born that way.) And, amazingly, despite the fact that elephant abuse is prevalent in the circus (& other performing arenas) “some elephants could and did form strong attachments to their trainers.” (p. 241)


Image: CC Flickr    Elephant Tricks at African Lion Safari    Notice Man With Bullhook Behind This Adolescent Elephant


-In Chapter 19 (p. 247) “Unchained at Last” we ultimately see just how clever Billie really is as she discovers and explores her new home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Read about Billie and the “Q Barn Weighing Scale”.

-“Over time Billie’s aggression diminished by about two-thirds, but it still lingers and Gail Laule (owner: Active Environments – a consulting business) expects it always will. Sometimes, she thinks, Billie lashes out just to scare or surprise her caregivers. But Laule also believes Billie is angry- angry at the people who mistreated her in the past, who forced her to sacrifice the life she should have had, who made her live on the edge. All those years, circus handlers struck Billie for no reason at all, and now she was striking back just as erratically.” (p. 252)



Watch YouTube Video “Billie’s Last Chain”

Carol Bradley the author of “Last Chain on Billie” website

More photos of Billie at the Daily Mail

Images: CC Flickr Featured , Elephant Playing Basketball  Balancing Elephant  Bullhook Man & Adolescent Elephant Doing Tricks


One thought on “Last Chain on Billie : How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top by Carol Bradley : Review Part 3

  1. Pingback: Last Chain on Billie : How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top by Carol Bradley: Review Part 2 | Elephant Spoken Here

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