Civil Penalties Assessed Against Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.)

Sarah Markham

A strong message of against animal cruelty has been delivered to the public, especially those who exhibit animals for profit, with the assessment of civil penalties against the Ringling Brothers.   On November 28, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Field Entertainment, Inc., paid $270,000 in fines for violations of Animal Welfare Act pursuant to an agreement that have been reached with USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care be provided for animals exhibited to the public.  PETA repeatedly urged the USDA to take action against Ringling Brothers for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  In 2009, PETA led an undercover investigation to reveal “the saddest show on earth,” which included the exhibited animals being struck with bull hooks.  In August of this year, an elephant ‘stumbled’ according to Ringling Brothers, but an eyewitness believed the elephant collapsed when the handlers were moving her.

The Animal Welfare Act was enacted in 1966, and was originally intended to prevent mistreatment of laboratory animals, but was expanded to include exhibits of animals in the 1970 amendments.  Ringling Brothers paid the fine, but their press release did not admit any guilt or wrongdoing.  Many people believe that the Animal Welfare Act is insufficient to protect animals, especially the animals in circuses.  Bob Barker is advocating the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act.  Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is supporting this bill, which aims to terminate the egregious treatment of the circus animals, i.e. extended periods of time in temporary living facilities and being constantly chained.

In the meantime, Field Entertainment, Inc. has agreed to train its employees to handle the animals in a manner that complies with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.  Let us hope that this promise is not reneged on!

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4 Responses

  1. Photos of innocent babies hogtied and stretched to the breaking point by ropes … pictures of gentle giants in foot chains …. these images rip my heart out. I feel like an emotional wreck every time I see such scenes.

    Your well-intentioned hopes for possibly-slightly-improved welfare don’t sit well with me, Sarah. I know Bob Barker and Jim Moran are supporting a bill they think is politically expedient, but I think they should come at this as a little child would. If a child who delights in seeing circus elephants performing were told the truth about their perpetual misery, about the inherent injustice of locking up these freedom-loving creatures, he or she would demand they be sent to a sanctuary IMMEDIATELY.

    As it stands now, the torturous abuses to these poor animals will continue ad nauseam. The nature of this business is to maximize pain and suffering — the only way it can coerce animals into complying with its demands — in order to maximize attendee entertainment and thus maximize Ringling profits.

    There is no way that Feld Entertainment is NOT going to renege on its promises. It will do so repeatedly with impunity. Because no one is there to watch behind the scenes, after hours, during transport. And because violence and punishment and confinement are the tools of the trade, not to mention pleasurable, power-tripping addictions of the trainers.

    No matter how many elephants collapse mysteriously, no matter how sizeable the fines, Feld will pay up (well, appeal first!) — then pick up and move to the next city with its animal boxcars.

    Thanks to articles in the media telling about this penalty, the public is slowly becoming educated and outraged. Eventually, the vast majority of parents will realize it is not “cool” to go to circuses with animal acts.

    Meanwhile, pressure will mount on lawmakers to ban the use of animals in the circus. Certainly abolition of this cruel, culturally entrenched practice is way overdue. The notion that corporations should be allowed to ruin the lives of highly sentient beings is no longer acceptable (not that it ever was).

    On to the next step: a finding of criminal liability and a proper criminal sentence. That’s what the apologists at Feld deserve.

  2. The above comment by CQ says it all. As long as we see business as having priority over nonhuman animals, things will not realistically change. Be a pain-in-the butt with your elected officials to let them know what you expect of them, please!

  3. I agree with the above comments 100%, esp CQ. But keep in mind, this bill and the civil penalties probably are not the end all be all for the anti circus movement. It is just another way to chip away at the circus industry. Legislative bills, video footage, protests, etc all help spread awareness of the horrors of circuses.

  4. This has stop now animals are not toys they are like us they have there own rigts. by leia greenfeld and justin

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