Article on animals in circuses and a poll on the right-hand side!http://www.newsday.com/news/nationwo...news-headlines
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- There was the big top, a giant blue tent. There were acrobats, a trapeze and even a couple of clowns. There were hot dogs and popcorn and lots of overpriced souvenirs.
But there were no animals, and that kind of spectacle may be coming to your neighborhood if animal-rights activists and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have their way.
Cirque du Soleil is world-famous for its innovative approach to circus performance, and many conventional circuses may start looking more like Canada-based Cirque as communities across the U.S. ban, or seek to ban, circuses with exotic animal acts--especially those involving elephants.
About 15 U.S. cities have ordinances banning circus acts that involve animals, and a measure is pending in the Chicago City Council to require that each elephant within city limits have at least 10 acres of personal space.
While activists express concern about all exotic animals in circuses, there is special worry about elephants. The animals often spend as many as 22 hours a day tethered, usually with chains on their ankles, said Colleen Kinzley, curator of the zoo in Oakland, who has worked extensively with elephants.
In the wild they roam and forage for as many as 18 hours a day, experts say.
The ASPCA is one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus and Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the giant circus.
Using the federal Endangered Species Act, the plaintiffs argue that the way elephants are trained and housed by Ringling Bros. violates the law.
"We allege that the way they train their elephants wounds them," said Kimberly Ockene, one of the attorneys in the case, which is in the discovery phase in federal court in the District of Columbia.
She said the use of a metal bull hook to train the elephants and the practice of separating baby elephants from their mothers too quickly causes the animals physical, emotional and psychological suffering.
Ockene said the suit, begun in June 2004, likely will go to trial sometime next year.
Ringling Bros. said their elephants live a pampered existence.
"Our animals are amongst the best cared for anywhere," said Thomas Albert, vice president for government relations and animal policy with Ringling Bros. "Sadly, our elephants are better cared for than many children in this country."
Under the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with guaranteeing the welfare of exotic animals in zoos and circuses.
Albert said the USDA regularly inspects Ringling Bros. facilities and that the things the ASPCA and the other plaintiffs allege would make it impossible for the circus to continue with elephant acts.
"They are alleging that anytime we do anything with an elephant we are violating the Endangered Species Act," he said.
At any given time, Ringling Bros. has about 54 elephants. Three of the traveling circuses have nine or 10 elephants on the road with each of them. A smaller one-ring circus travels with just two, he said.
`Leaders in animal care'
Ringling Bros. does a great deal to benefit elephants and other exotic animals in its possession, Albert said.
"We have been the leaders in animal care for 136 years," he said. The circus' breeding program, Albert said, was responsible for 19 elephant births in the last 14 years, accounting for 45 percent of Asian elephant births in the United States.
Right now, 65.4% have voted for circuses that use animals to be banned
Let's bring it even higher.