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!