The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, must pay the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history―$270,000―for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act dating from the present back to 2007.
As part of the settlement, Ringling also agreed to hire a compliance officer who will ensure that all employees follow the rules outlined in the Animal Welfare Act. All employees who handle animals will also have to undergo compliance training.
Ringling Bros Do Not Admit To Violating Law
Vienna-based Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus and other well-known acts such as Disney on Ice, said it does not admit to violating the law and agreed to the settlement as a cost of doing business to resolve its differences with the USDA.
“We look forward to working with the USDA in a cooperative and transparent manner that meets our shared goal of ensuring that our animals are healthy and receive the highest quality care,” said a statement released by Kenneth Feld, chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment.
But Numerous Allegations Of Cruelty
However, in reports from 2007 through this year, inspectors found, among other allegations:
* Circus handlers made elephants perform when they were ill;
* They used the same wheelbarrows to feed meat to tigers and haul away their waste;
* A 35-year-old female Asian elephant, Banko, was forced to perform at a show in Los Angeles despite a diagnosis of sand colic and observations that she appeared to be suffering abdominal discomfort;
* The circus had splintered floors and used rusted cages to contain big cats such as tigers;
* In March 2008 two zebras briefly got loose from their enclosure at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore;
* In 2010, another zebra escaped its enclosures in Atlanta and had to be captured by area law enforcement.
And More Allegations
Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA), also made a report:
Among the evidence that PETA presented were 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 and 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.
PETA, which has filed numerous complaints with USDA against the circus, especially for its handling of elephants, said the fine is a good first step. But it called on the government to confiscate the elephants.
“What remains to be done is for the public to be made aware of this history of abuse so that people will know to keep their children away from the circus,” PETA said.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement, “The civil penalty and other stipulations in the settlement agreement will promote a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all exhibitors in maintaining and caring for animals under their care.”
Let’s Stop This Cruelty!
It’s good news that the government has finally taken action to protect helpless animals. But wouldn’t it be great if no animals were forced to perform in circuses, ever again?
Why not take a first step by asking every parent you know not to take their children to the circus?
Photo Credit: brady_johnson