Environment News Protests

Ringling’s Elephant in the Room

January 13, 2012

Why weren’t they beating the inflatable elephant?

“We wanna keep it, you know, family friendly,” said Tracy Patton, of PETA. “Keep a gentle visual.”

Hunkered on the corner of Chase Street and 9th Avenue, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood with their smallish inflatable elephant. Not beating it. Or prodding it with electrodes, or gouging it with a bullhook or anything much at all.

“We get a lot of beeps and waves,” said Jan Papra. “We want the public to know this isn’t harmless, innocent fun for the kids.”

The group of PETA protesters directed their shouts and signage across the street to the Pensacola Civic Center. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has come to town.

There’s a huge semi in the parking lot featuring an image of circus elephants wearing fancy caps. One of the PETA people wave a ‘BOYCOTT THE CIRCUS’ sign.

“They’re training tactics are highly hidden from the public,” said Patton.

PETA has forever dogged Ringling Bros. with charges of animal cruelty. At times, so have government regulators.

Recently, the circus agreed to a record $270,000 fine to settle charges that it violated federal animal welfare laws. No wrong-doing was admitted in the settlement.

In one incident logged by federal inspectors an Asian elephant was made to perform although in pain from possible sand colic. In 2008, inspectors reported that wheelbarrows used to transport meat to tigers was also used for moving waste.

In a letter published last week in the Pensacola News Journal, Steve Payne, Ringling’s vice president corporate communication, defended the circus.

“Everyone at Ringling Bros. takes great pride in presenting quality family entertainment, but animal rights activists continue to take photographs of elephant training techniques and use them to level spurious charges against our dedicated team of animal care professionals,” Payne wrote.

On the corner of 9th and Chase, Papra cites the quarter million dollar settlement. And mentions how some elephants eventually attack their trainer.

“Electric prods, hooks, tied down and it never stops,” Papra said. “A lifetime of abuse, anybody can snap.”

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  • Connie January 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    You don’t have to be a member of PETA or any group to recognize animal cruelty when you see it. Common sense tells you that it is inhumane to keep wild animals chained, penned and traveling in a trailer except when they are performing 11 months a year.
    I was at the Civic Center everyday in protest of the circus’s treatment of their exotic animals. I was holding photo posters showing Ringling’s baby elephants being trained with cruel methods to make them perform circus tricks. I could tell that the older children who saw these photos had a questioning look on their faces. I hope they educate themselves. Their parents seemed to look away for fear their own circus fantasy would be shattered. I overhead one Mother says to her child, “We don’t want to know about the bad stuff.”
    The human equivalent to an exotic circus animal’s life is to take a human toddler, put them in a prison cell for 23/7, and force them to maintain a grueling work schedule until they die. Beat and shock them as needed for complete compliance. Oh, they have the good life. Shelter, food and constant care are provided for lifetime. This is the life of an exotic circus animals.

  • jimbob January 14, 2012 at 8:13 am

    I think the local PETA group ought to hook up with the Occupy/Monkster crew and take their circus act on the road

  • Riley January 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Thank goodness somebody in town prints and exposes the sad truth of these animals. Many papers in town only printed the grand illusion sold to many, and refused to even let the other side be presented. Bravo for a real article that can promote change. Pensacola desperately needs more writers like you. Great job!!