Billie, an Asian elephant, was one of the famed Hawthorne Five belonging to the now notorious circus owner, John F. Cuneo. The circus life she was forced into was brutal, unnatural and often deadly. She was referred to by most of her trainers as difficult, and treated with hatred and violence for decades. Mr. Cuneo himself has wracked up a long list of penalties and lawsuits over the last twenty years due to his abusive and neglectful handling of animals. Enforcement of animal welfare laws, however, is weak and ineffective. Cuneo managed to delay proceedings long enough to be fatal to some of his elephants (and other animals as well). But that didn't matter to him. His reason for having animals has always been to make money. So again, greed is the compelling force behind cruelty.
Thanks to the Endangered Species Acts in the 1970s, animals who were otherwise considered disposable became much more valuable, and therefore less likely to be executed for bad behavior. But that did not stop of horrific abuse. When whistleblowers began to bring suit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey owner, Kenneth Feld, he went to great lengths to destroy the reputation of his attackers, rather than to ensure the health and welfare of his circus's imprisoned elephants. The elephants make more money for Ringling than any of their other enterprises. Felt simply will not give up the profits just for ethical treatment of elephants.