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Animal rights supporters picket Ringling Bros Circus at Schottenstein Center

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The bullhook "is designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, to inflict pain and punishment," said retired Ringling elephant trainer Sammy Haddock in the Times Union Animal Rights blog. "I should know. I used to make them."

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On Friday evening, hundreds of adults and children walking to the Ringling Bros Circus performance at the Schottenstein Center were greeted by animal rights activists, who held signs and passed out fliers to raise awareness of animal cruelty in the circus industry.

The protest was organized by WEEAC International. Members of several animal rights groups participated, including Mercy for Animals and the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry.

"During the course of my career, I've seen elephants being beaten who have no idea why they are being beaten or what is expected of them," Sammy 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.

"I stopped telling people what I did for a living," he said. "I was ashamed."

Many of the adults averted their eyes from the signs and protesters as they passed by. Most of the children looked.

The protesters will return to the Schottenstein Center on Saturday, May 10 at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.