Posted: 1 February 2012. Updated: 6 November 2012
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus is to pay a massive settlement—$270,000—the largest of its kind in the history of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), for alleged violations dating from June 2007 to August 2011. While Ringling “does not admit wrongdoing or any violation of USDA” in their press release, savvy observers are seeing things differently. The Los Angeles Times penned a scathing editorial about the announcement, “Ringling Bros., they’re elephants, not clowns”, detailing some of the contents of the USDA inspection reports and noted that the USDA had also launched four investigations into the circus over the last two years “…that might have led to findings of more serious violations before the settlement ended all inquiry.” The Times piece flatly called for Ringling to retire the elephants and for circus patrons to boycott the show.
The settlement agreement noted that more than a dozen inspections had resulted in reports of noncompliance with regulations, some of which according to the USDA inspection reports included a zebra escaped over some fencing and ended up on a busy highway, handlers lost control of an elephant, and circus staff were found using the same wheelbarrows for tigers’ wastes as their food.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) is delighted to see the USDA taking firm action against Ringling and sending this clear message to other USDA licensed circuses and exhibitors. Further, this unprecedented punitive settlement is a clear indication for the need to pass federal legislation to protect wild animals in traveling circuses.
Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) who recently introduced H.R. 3359, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) alongside ADI, highlighted the USDA announcement and called for the passage of this bill. “Today’s [USDA] announcement indicates that mistreatment of animals in violation of the law – despite claims to the contrary from the traveling circus industry – is widespread and persistent,” said Rep. Moran. “The mounting evidence of inhumane treatment and growing public concern for these animals demands that we reconsider the appropriate living conditions provided for these intelligent, social creatures.”
TEAPA aims to end the use of wild animals in traveling circuses in the U.S. – click here to find out how you can get involved.