It was a historic day on Capitol Hill Wednesday to save wild animals from U.S. traveling circuses. The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) was introduced to Congress; a bill that severely restricts how wild and exotic and animals can be used in circuses and exhibitions.
Former Price Is Right host and long-time animal advocate Bob Barker, CSI actress Jorja Fox, Animal Defenders International and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) joined Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) to launch the bill.
The five-page bill stops exotic and wild animals from performing if they have been traveling on the road in temporary shelters any time in a 15 day period before an event. The wording of TEAPA virtually eliminates the use of wild and exotic animals in U.S. travelling circuses.
“Based upon publically available research, including video and photographic evidence, it is clear that traveling circuses cannot provide the proper living conditions for exotic animals,” Moran said. “This legislation is intended to target the most egregious situations involving exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses.”
Moran also cited the health costs of traveling with exotic animals and the psychological and behavioral problems associated with keeping these animals in captivity. He talked about the use of elephant hooks, electric shocks and other forms of abuse that have been documented by activists.
Congressman Moran, who co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, has been a friend to animals in the past by introducing legislation about truth in fur labeling and outlawing the sale of “crush videos.”
Bob Barker said, “The animals that suffer most are the big animals – that would be the elephants – but any animals in traveling circuses suffer terribly. The conditions are completely abnormal. In their training, they are forced to do things that they would never do naturally. They are struck with clubs…they are whipped… They (trainers) even withhold food and water to make them perform.”
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus issued a statement about TEAPA. Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment which produces the show said, “This bill doesn’t do anything to improve animal care. We’re the experts on taking care of our animals; we’ve been doing it for over 140 years.”
Sarah, the 54 year-old sick elephant who slipped and fell while boarding a Ringling Bros train this summer, would probably disagree with that statement.
Below are pictures of U.S. circus animals courtesy of Animal Defenders International.
Photos courtesy of Animal Defenders International