Ringling Brothers Stands Trial in Federal Court for Elephant Mistreatment
Sacramento group among plaintiffs in groundbreaking case
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, Inc., will finally stand trial to face charges that the circus mistreats its Asian elephants in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The case is more than eight years in the making.
On Wednesday (Feb. 4), the plaintiffs, including Sacramento-based non-profit Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, the Fund for Animals, and former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider are scheduled to present their case in federal district court in Washington, D.C. Katherine Meyer of the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal will serve as lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
The groundbreaking lawsuit alleges that Ringling Bros. violates the Endangered Species Act by abusively training and disciplining endangered Asian elephants with sharp implements such as bull hooks and by intensively and continuously confining and chaining the animals for hours and even days on end.
“We look forward to showing at trial how the elephants are routinely hit with bull hooks and continuously chained in the hopes that this case will preclude Ringling Bros. from mistreating these spectacular endangered animals ever again,” said Mr. Rider. Rider worked for two and a half years as a “barn man” for Ringling before leaving the circus because of the mistreatment he witnessed.
Over the years, the plaintiffs have amassed a wealth of evidence to support their claims including photographs, video footage, internal Ringling Bros. documentation and reports from the United States Department of Agriculture.
This evidence includes Ringling’s own internal written documents that discuss the mistreatment of elephants such as an e-mail from a Ringling animal behaviorist reporting “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor from being hooked” and the confining of elephants in train boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for as much as 60-100 hours.
In addition to such evidence, eyewitness testimony from former Ringling Bros. employees and testimony from leading elephant behavior experts will be presented by the plaintiffs at trial
“This trial will shine the spotlight on the abuse occurring behind the big top at Ringling,” said Nicole G. Paquette, esq., senior vice president and general counsel of Born Free USA (also a witness in the trial). “People should be outraged at how these animals are treated: bloodied with bullhooks and confined with chains and in small boxcars day in and day out. Since when does animal abuse — of an endangered species no less — qualify as family entertainment?”
Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally through legislation, litigation and public education. Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition.
More information on Born Free USA and the Ringling case can be found at http://www.bornfreeusa.org/ringling.
Trial updates will be posted to this web site as well as to Twitter at
Home page for the Animal Welfare Institute: http://www.awionline.org
AWI’s trial page is at http://www.awionline.org/wildlife/elephants/rbsuit.htm
It’s all just one big circus. /Gary