Written by Jeff Mackey
PETA has asked the Los Angeles Mayor's Office to immediately
release records related to the city's decision to allow the Ringling Bros. circus to force ailing elephants to perform during its recent stint at the Staples Center despite expert advice
to the contrary and despite apparently breaching the city's own laws.
When Ringling came to L.A. this summer, the city brought in
an independent elephant expert to determine whether the elephants used by the
troupe were fit to perform. Dr. Philip Ensley—associate veterinarian for the Zoological
Society of San Diego for 29 years—issued a critical report after inspecting the elephants.
He advised, among other things, that two of Ringling's
elephants "should be removed from performing" since "Karen and
most likely Nichole as well, suffer from arthritis, which results in chronic
pain, impaired limb function, and are in effect crippled" and that five
other elephants should be removed from performing if Ringling failed to improve
their standard of care because of their histories of foot, toenail, and
musculoskeletal issues, including at least one elephant who "suffers from
… ongoing chronic foot problems."
Dr. Ensley concluded his report by noting that the inspected
elephants "suffer unneeded existing detrimental medical conditions and
should not participate in forced, non species-typical behaviors that are
repetitive rigorous physical activities"—in other words, typical circus
routines—"under the current standard of care and living conditions."
Los Angeles law prohibits the city from issuing a permit to
any circus with animals unless it has first conducted an investigation and
determined "that animals will not be subject to needless suffering,
unnecessary cruelty or abuse" and that the circus will not violate any
state or local law. Los Angeles regulations also prohibit keeping crippled or
painfully diseased animals in the city.
What's more, California law requires that animals who are
"unfit for labor" are not to be used in any way, including in
performances, and prohibits subjecting any animal to needless suffering. But
despite these clear guidelines and Dr. Ensley's unequivocal findings, the city
issued a permit to Ringling and allowed it to illegally force these suffering,
unfit, crippled elephants to perform.
Less Than Full
In an effort to determine why this decision was made, PETA
submitted a public records request to the Mayor's Office. After delaying a
response, the office provided some records but withheld an undisclosed number
of records. PETA believes that the withholding of at least some of these
records may have been unlawful since the reasons given for not releasing the
records don't apply when the public interest favors disclosure.
The reasons for approving a permit for Ringling to use
elephants—whom the city knew from its own
expert to be unfit and suffering from chronic pain—against city
law are clearly of interest to the public, especially at a time when the Los
Angeles City Council is considering legislation to protect elephants used in
circuses. This information is also of interest to PETA, whose campaigners are working
nonstop to end Ringling's abuse and exploitation of animals, so the group has
demanded the release of the improperly withheld records and will consider
taking legal action if denied.
What You Can Do
Even animal-protection laws as seemingly clear as Los
Angeles' don't always do the job. Please start a legislative effort to completely ban circuses and other traveling exhibits in your town or county.
And if a circus with animals is scheduled to perform in your town, make sure that you're ready.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
Follow PETA on Twitter!
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.