By Jennifer O'Connor
Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, must now pay the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history―$270,000―for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dating back to 2007.
PETA has been after the USDA all this time to take action against Ringling for abusing the animals in its care. In recent meetings, we presented unequivocal evidence of animal abuse, including beatings, the death of a lion, lame elephants forced to perform despite chronic pain, and a baby elephant who died during a training routine. We had recently filed a new formal request for action against Ringling, and our attorneys had met with the USDA's general counsel and urged her to begin enforcement proceedings.
PETA presented testimonial and photographic evidence that baby elephants at Ringling's training compound are torn away from their mothers and subjected to violent training sessions so that they will learn how to perform tricks, as well as video footage from a PETA investigation showing how elephants used by Ringling are whipped, beaten, and yanked by heavy, sharp steel-tipped bullhooks behind the scenes, prior to performing.
In addition to receiving the largest civil penalty ever assessed against an exhibitor under the AWA, Ringling must now provide all employees who handle animals with training and hire a staff member dedicated to AWA compliance. We will see how that goes.
This is a great start, but no one should forget that elephants and other animals pay the price every time anyone buys a ticket to the circus. Ask all the parents you know not to take their children to this cruel show, and explain why or show them this blog.