Most of the animal abuse that occurs on a daily basis goes largely unnoticed. As much as I disagree with most of PETA's tactics for raising awareness of these abuses, I have to admit that they are able to at least get the media's attention briefly from time to time.
This morning there was a segment on the local news about Ringling Bros. circus' abuse of their elephants and big cats (click here to watch the video). This comes as no surprise, as they've been doing it (and denying it) for years. I've seen undercover footage of the trainers whipping and striking their animals many times over the years, and it appalls me that they haven't been shut down or at least had their animals confiscated.
Ringling Bros. is well aware of the controversy, as they've even been sued by their own workers. They continue to paint concerned citizens as "extremists". It's a common tactic used to defend animal abuse, whether it's unnecessary vivisection, livestock in factory farms or animals used for entertainment. It is not "extreme" to want Ringling Bros. to quit beating their animals.
When I used to regularly attend protests, they would keep close watch on us. One night we put up hundreds of posters inviting others to join the protest only to have them all taken down before dawn (this was at 4 am, so they were obviously following us). We were almost arrested several times during the peaceful protest (had to physically outrun the cops).
I know that Ringling Bros. will continue to dodge the bullet and weasel out of any responsibility for their abuses, so I beg you to not attend their circuses. There are plenty of great circuses that do not use animals for entertainment, and they should be supported.
Here's another video of the head trainer instructing fellow trainers on the finer points of how to abuse elephants. He warns not to do it in the ring, only where people aren't watching.