By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 8:12 am in Animal welfare.
It’s all a matter of perspective
When I got to work on Monday, I found two startlingly different views of a ruling by the federal district court on an old lawsuit brought by various animal welfare groups against the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Baily Circus for elephant abuse.
One view came in a press release from the animal welfare groups that had filed the elephant abuse case seven years ago against the circus. The other view was in a story on the PRNewswire, an electronic press release, from Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus.
After reading both versions of the ruling, I wondered if they were talking about the same lawsuit. It shows you what can happen if two different groups go through an event and highlight ONLY those things that makes their side look good.
Go ahead … pick a side … any side.
“Ringling Brothers Will Stand Trial for Elephant Abuse”
WASHINGTON (Aug. 23, 2007) — Today, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the federal district court in Washington D.C. issued a major ruling rejecting the last-ditch attempt of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to avoid trial over charges that the circus abuses its Asian elephants in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.
The groundbreaking lawsuit, brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, and Tom Rider, a former employee of Ringling Bros., alleges that the circus violates the Endangered Species Act by abusively training and disciplining elephants with sharp implements such as bullhooks, by intensively confining and chaining the multi-ton animals for prolonged periods, and by forcibly separating baby elephants from their mothers.
“The ASPCA is delighted with today’s ruling, which paves the way for the real case at hand: whether Ringling Brothers violated the Endangered Species Act in its treatment of the elephants,” stated ASPCA Senior Vice President Lisa Weisberg.
In its ruling, the Court scolded the circus for “wast(ing) a considerable amount of time and resources” of the Court and the groups by engaging in “dilatory” delay tactics over several years. The Court had previously ruled and today reiterated that the circus had repeatedly withheld critical evidence, in violation of a Court order.
“After five years of legal wrangling, we look forward to unveiling the curtain at trial to expose the suffering and death of elephants at the hands of the so-called ‘Greatest Show on Earth,’” said Tracy Silverman, General Counsel for the Animal Welfare Institute. “These magnificent animals will finally have their day in Court.”
In today’s ruling, the Court also recognized the important “public policy in favor of protecting the animals from unlawful harassment or harm.” The Court further admonished that “promoting the public interest in the preservation of such species will remain an ever-present threat to those seeking to unlawfully harm such species.”
“Today’s strongly worded decision shows that the Court has run out of patience for Ringling Brothers’ stalling ploys,” said Michael Markarian, president of The Fund for Animals. “This trial will come not a moment too soon, as Ringling’s elephants continue to suffer every day from abusive discipline and prolonged chaining.”
The Court also rejected Ringling’s attempt to interject baseless counterclaims against the plaintiffs, and to harass the plaintiffs with discovery on irrelevant issues. The Court ordered all further discovery to be completed by the end of the year, and a trial date is expected soon.
“US District Court Dramatically Narrows Issues in Seven-Year-Old Lawsuit”
VIENNA, Va. (Aug. 24, 2007) — This week the US District Court in Washington, DC granted partial summary judgment to Feld Entertainment, parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, in a meritless lawsuit filed years ago by various animal rights groups. The Court’s ruling dramatically narrowed the scope of the lawsuit by finding that none of Fend Entertainment’s Asian elephants born in the United States are subject to the plaintiffs’ claims in this case. The ruling validates the arguments that Feld Entertainment has consistently made about its conservation program and dramatically reduced the plaintiffs’ case.
“We are pleased that the Court ruled many of the Asian elephants in our care are not covered by the plaintiffs’ unfounded claims,” stated Feld Entertainment General Counsel Jerry Sowalsky. “We are proud of our efforts to preserve the endangered Asian elephant and look forward to proving our animal care practices are the best in the world.”
The Court also sided with Fend Entertainment on its claims that plaintiffs unjustifiably withheld important documents and information about this case and granted Fend Entertainment access to the majority of items that plaintiffs had withheld. The Court also agreed with Feld Entertainment’s “valid concerns” about security and animal safety for the elephant inspection that the plaintiffs sought, finding that parameters needed to be set prior to any inspection.
Finally, the Court ruled on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Conspiracy Counterclaim sought by Feld Entertainment against the plaintiffs. The Court said that given the issues in this case “had been narrowed” and that the case is “winding down,” filing the counterclaim at this time would unduly complicate this seven-year-old case by injecting into it a claim involving an “elaborate corruption scheme” on the part of the plaintiffs. The Court did not comment on the merits of the claim and denied the plaintiffs’ assertion that the RICO and conspiracy allegations were frivolous. Fend Entertainment will pursue its RICO and conspiracy case against the animal rights groups in a separate lawsuit.