There's a terrible secret lurking alongside the smiling faces of clowns and acrobats at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Asian elephants are beaten with sharp metal bullhooks, confined in chains and hauled around the country for most of their lives. Three of Ringling's young elephants have died in recent years.
As Feld Entertainment, the circus's wealthy parent company, tries to distract audiences from the abuse and publicize its so-called compassion for elephants through deceiving campaigns, we persist in our lawsuit against Ringling for mistreating Asian elephants - a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The lawsuit, filed in 2000, currently remains in the discovery phase, during which the parties attempt to collect information from each other for use in the trial. While we have gained access to critical materials, such as video footage of the drowning of a baby elephant and another elephant giving birth on a concrete floor while chained by three legs, Feld Entertainment attempts to drag on the lawsuit by withholding documents to which we are entitled.
In mid-September, Ringling and its attorneys were ordered to appear in federal court to show why the circus should not be held in contempt for refusing to turn over complete medical records concerning its performing elephants. Although the plaintiffs had requested all veterinary records related to the circus's elephants, Ringling only produced a brief compilation of some of the animals' records in response - later claiming it somehow overlooked more than 2,000 pages of medical records stored "off-site" by its veterinarian.
We expect a trial for our lawsuit will be held sometime next year. Meanwhile, our legal bills continue to rise. The Animal Protection Institute has just joined our effort, and while this will help reduce our expenses, we are by far the smallest organization fighting Ringling - yet we have continued to share costs associated with the lawsuit equally with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Fund for Animals.
Between performances, Ringling elephants are confined by chains around their legs.(Photo courtesy of Elephant Alliance)
Archival document; for complete account, please see http://awionline.org/cases/protection-asian-elephants.