The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act

Elizabeth Rattner

New legislation, titled “The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act,” has recently been proposed by Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia. The legislation aims at cracking down on the use of exotic animals such as elephants, lions, and tigers in traveling circuses. The bill proposes that these animals cannot be used in the circus if they have traveled in a mobile housing facility during the 15 days preceding the performance. The bill clearly targets traveling circuses (as most are) “that that keep their animals on the road for most of the year.”  Often, it is the circumstances of these travels where animals are tied up and caged for long periods of time causing both physical and psychological damage. The group PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society), in addition to Animal Defenders International (ADI), Bob Barker, and Jorga Fox have all teamed up to raise awareness of the conditions that circus animals endue, and to raise support for the new legislation, which aims to “signal fundamental changein the way in which animals are used in the name of entertainment in the United States.”

When advocates of the bill traveled to Congress to show support for their cause, they wanted to bring a “bull hook” (a device used to prod elephants) with them to show Congress exactly what their legislation seeks to protect. Ironically, the group was told that they were not allowed past security with the bull hook since it was “too dangerous.”

Opponents of this bill question the timing of the legislation. As the country is going through hard economic times, opponents believe the bill will effectively end the livelihood of many families who depend on revenue generated from circuses. Likewise, Feld Entertainment (the producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey) criticized the legislation, believing that it discriminatorily targets traveling circuses, and is designed remove the right of the American people to decide whether the Ringling Bros. Circus will live or die. Feld Entertainment issued a statement saying, “The bill’s underlying false premise regarding the transport and care of circus animals is directly contradicted by sound science and animal husbandry best practices.”

While Feld Entertainment may oppose the legislation for going to far, others might happen to take note of the bill’s shortcomings. The bill includes exemptions for zoos, rodeos and animals used in movies and TV. Likewise, the bill does not cover exotic animals kept by private owners on private property.

Are exemptions such as these necessary? If so, what purpose do they serve? Overall, does the bill seem to go too far, or simply not far enough? These issues will need to be discussed in the coming future to see whether the proposed legislation will be enacted into law.

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for bringing this proposed bill to our attention, Elizabeth.

    How odd that the bull hook was deemed too dangerous to bring into the hallowed halls of Congress. And it’s supposedly used only as a “guide” for the elephants, right? If so, why not carry a shepherd’s staff?

    The language that Feld Entertainment uses to defend its brutal enslavement of animals is truly laughable. Had I known that Ringling Bros. cared so deeply about the welfare of humans and nonhumans alike — providing good-paying jobs for the former and applying “sound science and best husbandry practices” to the latter — I would’ve signed up to be an elephant trainer.

    Note: I got a “page not found” message when I clicked on the “too dangerous” hyperlink, FYI.

    A shout-out to Rep. Jim Moran, who’s also trying to stave off the reappearance of horse slaughter in the U.S., no small task in light of the recent stunt pulled by three Congressmen, which paves the way for USDA funding to be restored for slaughterhouse inspections. I trust one of David’s students will be writing about that sickening subject soon.

  2. This is some of what many of us have been waiting for. Contact your representative and tell them to support this legislation long overdue. Don’t you love how Feld Entertainment looks out for the rights of the American people? How do these people sleep at night? They make their living using cruel practices that I would gladly volunteer to try on them. I could use the same bull hook to nudge these circus people into performing for the rights of the American people! Really? Do they think the American people are that stupid?

  3. I don’t agree that animals from distant lands should be kept captive for the purposes of entertainment.

    They should be wild in their native habitat.

  4. As a child I used to go to the circus for my birthday. I went to see all of the animals. I didn’t realize being so young, what the animals had to go through. I have always loved animals and wildlife, and as a child I didn’t understand. Now I do. I don’t like the fact that all of these animals are abused and treated inhumane. No animal should have to endure this type of treatment. I strongly oppose that animals be used for entertainment, especially when they aren’t cared for the way they should be. No wildlife should be treated this way. They need to be respected and loved for what they are- wild. Everyone doesn’t know how to properly care for these animals and if they don’t, they need to let the people that are trained to care for them. Even some people that keep them as pets, don’t even know the proper way to care for them. They aren’t domesticated animals.

  5. “Do they think that American People are that stupid?”.

    You tell me. After all animals are traded as commodities on the American stock market. This speaks volumes for the moral values of this powerful capitalist nation, where the only thing that matters is the bottom line.
    Most people who are complaining about the abuse of animals in the circus have no problem eating Steak or chicken wings or pork ribs. Why this hypocrisy. Do you think animals used in the dairy and food industry suffer less than the animals in the circus? And please don’t even get me started on the horrors of halaal/Kosher slaughter!

  6. “Are exemptions such as these necessary? If so, what purpose do they serve? Overall, does the bill seem to go too far, or simply not far enough?”

    As far as I’m concerned definitely not far enough – But I understand the reasoning behind watering proposals down. It is the inching towards and chipping away process that will further advance the cause. Rodeo and zoo victims will just have to wait their turn till the slow wheels of justice recognize them too.

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