The Greatest Show on Earth? - PHOTOBLOG

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus kicked off the first of several shows Wednesday night at Brooklyn’s new Barclay’s Center, though not all were glowing with anticipation of the ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’

Earlier in the day, a parade of elephants with their minders marched across Old Fulton street, in DUMBO, Brooklyn to celebrate the circus’s arrival to New York. During the night prior to the show at Barclay’s, hundreds of animal-rights activists came together outside the arena to protest. Voicing their displeasure for what they claim is an habitual and systemic mistreatment of the exotic animals during shows. BTR’s Lauren Hawker was on hand to capture the drama outside of the venue.

Ashley Byrne, Campaign Manager at PETA said Ringling’s record of mistreating animals goes back decades.

“Elephants and other animals are abused behind the scenes at Ringling Brothers’ circus, and this has been happening for such a long, long time. The elephants are beaten with bull hooks and they are forced to travel for up to 50 weeks out of the year in poorly ventilated box cars where they don’t have adequate room to move around,” said Byrne. “They are just deprived of everything natural to them including that babies are ripped from their mothers just hours after their birth at Ringling’s captive breeding center in Florida.”

Byrne also says PETA hopes to raise more awareness by showing photos of the elephants that are beaten with bull hooks, prodded with electronic prods and slammed on the ground with ropes, adding “We received footage and photos from a former animal trainer at Ringling of employees beating the elephants with bull hooks.”

The show runs at Barclay’s until April 1, 2013.

Earlier in the day in DUMBO, animal rights protesters gathered along the elephant parade route.

The elephant parade was chaperoned by ‘minders’ working for the circus.

These elephant minders control the animals with bull hooks, pictured here.

A closer look.

Protesters also gathered outside the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

A mother and her daughter protest outside Barclay’s Center.

Young children in chains protesting outside Barclay’s Center.

All photos by Lauren Hawker, for more check out the BTR Flickr set.