February 2, 2009
Ringling Brothers Stands Trial in Federal Court for Elephant Mistreatment
WASHINGTON — In two days, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, Inc., will finally stand trial to face charges that the circus mistreats its Asian elephants in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The case is more than eight years in the making.
On Wednesday, Feb. 4, the plaintiffs, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute and former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider are scheduled to present their case in federal district court in Washington, D.C. Katherine Meyer of the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal will serve as lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
The groundbreaking lawsuit alleges that Ringling Bros. violates the Endangered Species Act by abusively training and disciplining endangered Asian elephants with sharp implements such as bull hooks, and by intensively and continuously confining and chaining the animals for hours and even days on end.
"We look forward to showing at trial how the elephants are routinely hit with bull hooks and continuously chained in the hopes that this case will preclude Ringling Bros. from mistreating these spectacular endangered animals ever again," said Mr. Rider. Rider worked for Ringling for two-and-a-half years before leaving the circus because of the mistreatment he witnessed.
Over the years, the plaintiffs have amassed a wealth of evidence to support their claims including photographs, video footage, internal Ringling Bros. documentation and reports from the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition to such evidence, eyewitness testimony from former Ringling Bros. employees and testimony from leading elephant behavior experts will be presented by the plaintiffs at trial.