The owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Feld Entertainment, paid a $270,000 fine for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act. It was the largest fine ever levied against an American animal exhibitor.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an email, “This settlement sends a direct message to the public and to those who exhibit animals that USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act.” (Source: Business Week)
In their official press release Feld wrote their paying of the very large USDA fine does not mean they violated any regulations. They explained, “The company decided it was more important to focus on the future of its business by continuing to provide the best animal care possible instead of engaging in costly and protracted litigation.” (Source: Feld Entertainment)
At issue was the mishandling of animals such as the forcing of an elephant to perform when it showed signs of being ill, cuts on another elephants face from an enclosure, splintered floors in cages, and one or more animal escapes. All of these situations did, or could cause harm to animals.
PETA played some role in bringing attention to the animal mishandling issue, when they presented what they say is photographic and video evidence of elephant abuse.
Critics of circuses say even the use of animals for performing tricks is cruel and should be abolished as it serves no purpose other than to make money. In the wild, elephants can roam for thirty miles in a single day. Wild mammals need very large open spaces to move within, in order to be healthy and have full lives.
One day circuses with performing animals might be a thing of the past. ASPCA has a list of circuses currently that do not use animals.
Image Credit: Bernard Gagnon