Baltimore Insider

Circus: Pinkett-Smith doesn't know first thing about elephants

A day after Jada Pinkett Smith sent a heartfelt letter to Baltimore's mayor, pleading for her to stand up for circus elephants she believes are being abused, circus officials called the actress "completely misguided."

"She doesn't know the first thing about elephants or about how to take care of them," Stephen Payne, the spokesperson for Ringling Bros., told Baltimore Insider Wednesday. "She's completely misguided."

In a letter dated Tuesday, Jada Pinkett Smith wrote to the mayor, "as a mother and proud Baltimore native," asking her to stop the circus from using devices called bullhooks to prod the elephants into performing.

Pinkett Smith reminded Rawlings-Blake of the city's law against any "mechanical, electrical, or manual device that is likely to cause physical injury or suffering" to a performing animal.

"Unlike me and other actors, elephants do not choose to perform," Pinkett Smith wrote. "These endangered elephants will soon be in your jurisdiction. My friends at PETA and I join animal advocates across the state in asking for your leadership in holding Ringling accountable and requiring the circus to comply with Baltimore's absolute prohibition of the use of devices such as bullhooks."

Payne said, yes, the circus does use bullhooks to move elephants along. And yes these instruments do have pointy, ends. However, he says the preferred term is "guides." And they don't hurt the animals.

"It's an extension of the elephant handler's arm," he said. "A long established, universally accepted and humane way of managing large elephants."

Payne said the seven elephants that will arrive in Baltimore later this month for the circus are well-treated, with veternarians on call 24 hours a day.

He chalked up the complaint to an attention-grab by PETA and a well-intentioned starlet who took the activist organization's bait.

"In terms of PETA, it's PETA, another shameless attempt for them to exploit a cleebrity and get attention for their cause," he said. "I would say [Pinkett Smith has] been misled by the people of PETA."

Payne invited Pinkett Smith to come see herself how well the circus animals are treated. And the people of Baltimore, too.

If you want to, the show's annual elephant brunch at Lexington Market will be at noon on March 28. The circus arrives in Baltimore March 21 and will stay, elephants, hooks and all, through April 1.