PETA vs. Ringling Bros.

The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published a story in March on the ongoing debate between Ringling Bros. and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In the profile, Ringling Bros. accuses People for the Ethical Treatment of animals of putting forth a fictional representation of the circus, while PETA accuses Ringling Bros. of being one of the cruelest circuses and of being “Baby Killers” after a young elephant at the circus died in July 2004.

PETA’s Brandi Valladolid told the Daily Free Lance-Star,

We’ve been protesting Ringling Bros. for a very long time. Ringling Bros. is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to animal welfare and animal care.

. . .

[Parents should not bring their children to a Ringling Bros. circus because] Kids pick up on things we don’t think they see. They see the animals getting whipped. They see the ringmaster hitting them. It teaches a very dangerous lesson — that it’s OK to abuse animals; OK to exploit them for entertainment.

Meanwhile Ringling Bros. spokesman Darin Johnson told the newspaper that PETA’s web site attacking the circus is filled with misinformation. For example, Johnson says video footage there distorts the events surrounding the birth of an elephant at the circus. According to the Daly Free Lance-Star,

He [Johnson] said the online video of the birth only shows the calf being pulled away from the mother for its own protection and doesn’t show it being returned to her when she calmed down.

Johnson said the calf was taken away, checked and returned, just as human babies are examined by doctors then returned to their mothers.

Johnson also told the Daily Free Lance-Star that online video at PETA’s site purports to showing elephants being whipped by Ringling Bros. employees, but that the video is in fact not of Ringling Bros. elephants or employees. The Daily Free Lance-Star quoted Johnson as saying,

They took footage from every zoo and animal park in the world and spliced it together.


PETA decries circus’s ethics. Michael Zitz, March 25, 2005.

IFAW Needs Basic Economics Lesson

In order to protest the sale of ivory, the International Fund for Animal Welfare publicly destroyed a giant elephant tusk constructed from various pieces of ivory in London’s Trafalgar Square. But it seems a bit confused about its motivation.

According to IFAW’s wildlife campaigner, Jenny Hawley,

Elephants are intelligent and sociable animals, capable of enormous suffering. Many populations are also at risk of extinction. People must remember that every ivory item they buy increases the demand, which is met by poacher. IFAW believes ivory belongs to elephants. The only way to stop elephants being killed for their tusks is to make ivory worthless.

Where did Hawley get her economics degree from? By publicly destroying ivory, the IFAW sends a clear signal that the amount of ivory available for sale, legally or illegally, has just declined. And what happens when the quantity of a commodity for sale declines (all other things being equal) — its value increases.

Hawley continues,

By destroying its own ‘stockpile’, IFAW is calling for all countries with ivory stockpiles to put them beyond use for ever. If we want to safeguard the future of elephants, then all international discussions must focus on proper long-term conservation measures rather than trade.

But, again, destroying such stockpiles would simply send the price of ivory skyrocketing which would make elephants an even more lucrative target for poachers.

Protecting elephants from poaching by strangling the supply of ivory will work just as effectively as stopping illegal drugs by attempting to strangle the supply has.


IFAW destroys giant tusk of unwanted ivory in its campaign to protect elephants. Press Release, International Fund for Animal Welfare, April 12, 2005.

API Goes Mobile With Anti-Circus Billboard

Unable to find an outdoor billboard company willing to display its latest anti-circus billboard, the Animal Protection Institute has created a mobile 22-foot mobile billboard, presumably attached to the side of a truck, to drive around areas where circuses appear.

The mobile billboard made its debut in January protesting a Jacksonville, Florida, appearance of Ringling Bros. Circus. The billboard shows a chained elephant with the text, “Would you chain your dog for most of her life? Why Pay a Circus to do it to Elephants?”

In a press release announcing the mobile billboard, API’s Michelle Thew said,

If the depiction of life for these animals is too graphic to be shown on a billboard, the reality is too graphic for them to endure in the circus. Protestors will be outside the arena on Wednesday with a clear message — the catalog of misery that circus animals endure must come to an end. This is not family entertainment.


Opening Night of Ringling Bros. Circus to Attract Protest. Press Release, Animal Protection Institute, January 26, 2005.

In Defense of Animals Can’t Count to Two

In January, In Defense of Animals released a list of what it called the “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants.” Among those zoos listed was the Cameron Park Zoo, in Texas. IDA complained that,

Even though companionship is essential to elephants’ psychological health, this Texas zoo displays and keeps a single elephant.

In fact, the Cameron Park Zoo has had two African elephants since its elephant exhibit opened in 1993, except for a brief period in 1996 after an aging elephant died.

IDA says it got the information from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s database of zoo animals, but didn’t bother to call the zoos it listed as the “10 Worst” to verify that information. IDA’s Catherine Doyle told the Waco Herald-Tribune,

It wasn’t meant to be a scientific study. It was an opinion piece. . . . The most important thing is that the public be educated about issues with elephants in zoos. These animals are suffering in zoos and dying in zoos because of captivity-induced conditions.

Certainly one should never expect to receive anything scientific from IDA, just as you shouldn’t expect anything historic from the t-shirt they sell with a bogus quote from Abraham Lincoln.

Its the activism that counts — screw the accuracy.


Animal rights group wrongly harangues Cameron Park Zoo. J.B. Smith, Waco Herald-Tribune, January 11, 2005.

Clyde-Beatty Cole Brothers Circus Stops Using Elephants

The Clyde-Beatty Cole Brothers Circus announced in April that it would no longer feature elephants in its traveling circus shows. It will, however, continue to rent out its two remaining elephants for television commercials and educational performances.

Cole Brothers Circus’ marketing director Bill Tebbetts told the Baltimore Sun that the decision to retire the elephant act was based solely on economics, noting it cost more than $60,000 per year to take care of each elephant on the road. According to Tebbetts,

Our business has been going down over the past few years, and we wanted to add some more flair to the show.

Humane Society of the United States’ Richard Farinato, however, chalked up the move to animal rights protests and pressure against the use of circus elephants. Farinato told the Baltimore Sun,

I do think what we’re seeing with the circuses is that they’re deciding that it’s not worth taking the heat. To change the way they’re doing business, they’ve realized they need to get elephants out of sight.


Big void under the big top. Molly Knight, Baltimore Sun, May 6, 2004.

Cole Drops Elephants. Press Release, I-SPEAK, April 2004.

PETA Protests Zoo In Truly Fitting Way

PETA’s basic argument in a nutshell.

On August 22, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested outside of the San Diego Zoo.

The activists were angered over the zoo’s decision to import African elephants from Swaziland. Swaziland had scheduled the elephants to be culled, but instead the zoo offered to import the animals as part of its breeding program.

Anyway, along with activists holding signs, PETA chose a method of protesting completely appropriate to its views — it unloaded a truckload full of manure in the zoo’s driveway in order to block the entrance. An unidentified man in an elephant suit locked himself inside the truck, but was pulled out and arrested by police.

PETA has pulled this sort of stun before. For example, during the 2000 presidential campaign it dumped a truckload of manure at a restaurant where then-Republican candidate George W. Bush had just finished having breakfast.

Not a pleasant way to protest, to be sure, but at least for a change PETA’s argument was intellectually honest.


PETA protests pachyderms with poo. TheSanDiegoChannel.Com, August 22, 2003.