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 changes in 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.
Filed under: animal law Tagged: | animal abuse, animal advocacy, Animal Defenders International, animal law, animal welfare, circuses, exotic animals, Performing Animal Welfare Society, The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act