Animal Protection Groups Ask Federal Court to Halt Ringling Bros.' Cruel Chaining and Confinement of Endangered Asian Elephants

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Washington, D.C. -- Today, a coalition of animal protection organizations and a former Ringling Bros. employee asked a federal district court in Washington D.C. to immediately order a halt to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Ringling Bros.)'s cruel practice of shackling and confining endangered Asian elephants for days on end in a manner that prevents them from walking or even turning around in place.

Newly obtained evidence based on the circus's own documents reveals that Ringling Bros. keeps elephants virtually immobilized in chains for the majority of their lives. Internal records of the circus's train travels show that the elephants are chained while confined in boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for as much as 60 100 hours without a break as the circus moves across the country.

"The evidence is simply shocking," says Lisa Weisberg, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). "The public should be outraged at the amount of time these animals are forced to be shackled and confined, and Ringling Bros. should be ashamed at hiding this cruelty from the public eye."

"We hope that the Court will order Ringling Bros. to immediately unchain these incredibly intelligent and, social animals and spare them from suffering a lifetime of misery," says Tracy Silverman, General Counsel for Animal Welfare Institute. "No animal should be chained for days at a time, week after week, month after month and year after year."

The request for an immediate halt to prolonged chaining and confinement of elephants is part of a groundbreaking lawsuit by the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA), and former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider against Ringling Bros. Circus.  The suit alleges that the circus is violating the Endangered Species Act by abusively training and disciplining elephants with sharp implements such as bullhooks, and by intensively confining and chaining the animals for prolonged periods of time.

"Shackling elephants for days on end without the ability to walk or even turn around is inherently cruel," said Michael Markarian, President of The Fund for Animals.  "Endangered species deserve something better than a lifetime of suffering."

Although Ringling Bros. has denied that the elephants spend most of their lives in chains, former circus employees and other witnesses have given sworn testimony to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the elephants are kept tightly chained by one front and hind leg — unable to move freely or even turn around — for hours on end.

"The overwhelming evidence we have obtained confirms what former Ringling Bros. employees have said for years about the unimaginable cruelty that goes on under — and behind — the Big Top," says Nicole G. Paquette, Senior Vice President for Born Free USA. "These new revelations of prolonged chaining of elephants should not only have significant implications for this case, but also assist in our national efforts to pass legislation prohibiting cruel training practices commonly used on captive elephants."

The plaintiffs are represented by the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

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Archival document; for complete account, please see http://awionline.org/cases/protection-asian-elephants.