Ringling Bros. Touring Group Eliminates Tiger Act

In an effort to try to stay relevant given all the entertainment options Americans have at their fingers, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has unveiled a new format for one of its touring groups that includes eliminating its tiger act altogether.

Ringling Bros. chief executive Kenneth Feld said the elimination of the tiger act was not a concession to animal rights activists, but rather an attempt to appeal more to the core audience of circus goers which Feld told the Tampa Bay Tribune constitutes mothers with young children. Other changes include a more theater-like environment including a 24-foot video screen. Ringling Bros. other touring group will keep the tiger act until the results of this experiment are available to the company.

According tot he Tribune,

But in a clear message to those who criticize Ringling’s treatment of animals, the elephants get speaking roles on the 24-foot video screen. Someone gives the animals voiced-over words, telling audiences that their act is based on naturalistic behaviors of elephants and poking fun at the animal rights issue.

University of Texas professor Janet Davis, however, told the Tribune that the elimination of the tiger act is a victory of sorts for the animal rights movement,

The animal rights groups have won in a way. There is less emphasis on animals in the new show.

Certainly animal rights groups were opposed to the tiger act, but this is no more a victory for animal rights groups anymore than the decline in the number of hunters is, even though they are both trends the animal rights movement is happy to see.

Rather they are both changes brought about by larger cultural, social and economic changes in the United States. Frankly, I’m surprised that as many people visit circuses every year as apparently do to keep Ringling Bros. and other circuses going.


Ringling In A New Era. Randy Diamond, Tampa Bay Tribune, January 5, 2006.

PETA Features Shackled, Beaten Woman to Protest Circus

Prior to an appearance by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Grand Forks, North Dakota, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals promised to pull out all the stops to protest. In a press release, PETA promised,

PETA Beauty Bares All, Including Truth Behind CircusÂ’s Phony Claims

. . .

Wearing nothing but shackles and covered in “scars” as a result of violent “beatings”—an everyday reality for animals in circuses—a woman will protest the arrival of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She will be joined by protesters holding a banner that reads, “Shackled, Lonely, Beaten,” while others show footage of elephant beatings on body screen TVs and hold poster-size photos of animals who have died at RinglingÂ’s hands:

The woman turned out to be PETA activist Christy Griffin. According to a report by the Grand Forks Herald,

Around noon, the woman, wearing a dark robe, showed up with a fully clothed companion and proceeded to set up a big, black sign on the sidewalk: “Circus animals: shackled, lonely, beaten.”

Then, following in Lady Godiva’s footsteps, she disrobed and half lay before the sign, wearing nothing but a pair of briefs and metal shackles. Makeup made it look as if she had three big gashes on her back.

This, she seemed to say, is what a human would be like if she were a circus animal.

As you can see from a picture that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald, however, Christy Griffin is clearly not naked,

This led some passersby to accuse PETA of lying,

“She’s got panties on,” said retiree Pete Nikel, who also says he thinks PETA people are crazy. “If you say you’re going to be totally naked, you gotta be totally naked!”

Grand Forks Herald columnist Ryan Bakken added a few days later,

In order to draw attention, PETA had promised a naked woman protesting the treatment of circus animals. Since she wore the blanket and briefs, the nudity guarantee was a half-truth, proving she has a bright future in politics.

This was an outrage, as many truth-seeking citizens (men) had surrendered their lunch hour to learn about mistreatment of circus animals. And, well, without the nudity, she lost her credibility as an expert. What would a clothes-wearing person know about animal cruelty?

One Grand Forks sanitation truck drove by the downtown street corner several times in hopes of finding a naked, credible spokeswoman. Mistreatment of circus animals also must be a high priority of construction workers, judging by their numerous drive-by visits.


Circus: Chained to a cause. Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald, August 12, 2005.

PETA: GF circus protest will feature shackled, ‘beaten’ naked woman. Grand Forks Herald, August 11, 2005.

Half naked? We barely noticed. Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald, August 14, 2005.

Naked Woman—Chained And ‘Beaten’—Protests Ringling’S Arrival In Fargo. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 11, 2005.

Why Activist Alfredo Kubra Gets Butterflies

Knight Ridder recently reported on a protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Action for Animals, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States against California Rodeo Salinas.

The story included only one quote from an activist at the event, one Alfredo Kuba who had this to say of participating in an animal rights protest,

I always get butterflies before I do something like this. Any time you express opinions that are different from the status quo, you have a little bit of fear. You can’t help but be concerned how people might react.

Kuba’s “nervous little activist” routine seems a bit thin given the things he’s said over the years. Kuba has been active in the California animal rights scene for more than a decade, and shows up in dozens of articles on Google and Lexis-Nexis.

What sort of things does Kuba believe that are different from the status quo? In a December 31, 2004 letter to the editor of the Mountain View (California) Voice, Kuba offered his views of hunting,

. . . Hunters are animal terrorists. Hunters make absurd claims of why murdering other beings is their “right” as if animals have no right to exist.

Hunting is a human wrong, just like slavery or the concentration camps. In the slavery era, whites felt they had the right to have slaves and slaves had no rights. In Nazi Germany, white supremacists believed they were the superior race under “God” thus rationalizing the extermination of Jews and other races “inferior” to them.

Hunters likewise rationalize to persecute, stalk, terrorize, maim and murder other living beings under the guise of superiority and difference of species. Hunters invade other species’ homes with the sole purpose of ending their existence.

Hunting is cold-blooded murder. Who made hunters God and gave them the power to decide who lives and who dies? The sickening aspect of hunters is that they find pleasure in the destruction of “God’s creation.”

Kuba despises hunting enough that he forces a vegan diet on his feline companion — and Kuba’s own dietary choices might hint at another explanation for those “butterflies.” In a 2004 AlterNet story on vegan pet diets, Kuba was quoted as saying (emphasis added),

You’re saving animals by not feeding your cat meat. It makes you feel good to feed your kitty something this good. Sometimes I even try some myself when I’m cooking.

Kuba’s not so concerned about the possibility of other cats having meat-oriented snacks. In May 2004, a mountain lion was spotted near Palo Alto, California. The lion was sleeping in a tree about 20 feet above a police car. Police initially planned to tranquilize the animal, but it woke up first, and the decision was made to kill the animal. Police said that since the timing of the incident made killing the animal necessary,

Because of the environment that it was in, school is about to be let out, the only safe thing to do to protect the community was to dispatch the animal. One shot was fired, the animal was felled.

Kuba disagreed, telling CBS5,

I think it’s absolutely atrocious the way the police behaved. Obviously the animal was not posing a threat to anyone. It was in a tree.

Kuba is also an expert on circuses. At a 2003 protest against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Kuba told the San Mateo Daily Journal that,

Daily beatings are a part of everyday life for animals in circuses.

Kuba recently started petition to ask KPFA 94.1FM to add an animal rights-themed show to its lineup. The petition reads,

Please sign petition asking KPFA 94.1FM to include an animal rights program on a regular basis. Animal rights is a topic of interest, often demoniced [sic] by the corporate propagandist media and not given a voice. Animals are voiceless and KPFA can provide that much desperately needed voice.

Surely purely by coincidence Kuba would host this new animal rights show on KPFA.

Those must be some strange butterflies.


Rodeo draws animal rights protesters. Dennis Taylor, Knight Ridder, July 26, 2005.

Hunters destroy ‘God’s creation’. Alfredo Kuba, Letter to the Editor, Mountain Valley Voice, December 31, 2004.

Mountain lion killed in Palo Alto. Len Ramirez, CBS 5, May 17, 2004.

Circus defends animal treatment. San Mateo Daily Journal, August 28, 2003.

Animal Rights Radio. Petition, 2005.

The Cat That Ate Tofu. Michael Rosen-Molina, Alternet, May 23, 2004.

Activist on Need to Change Impressions, If Not Ideology

When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus visited Orange County, California, in July the Los Angeles Times ran the typical back-and-forth story with competing quotes from circus employees and animal rights activists.

After quotes from animal rights activist Kristal Parks who told the Times that chaining elephants is “almost like putting a human being in a jail cell,” Orange County People for Animals activist Charlotte Gordon concedes to the Times that the animal rights movement might have an image problem,

[Gordon] . . . concedes the public hasn’t been won over. “We need to change [the impression] that we’re trying to take something away from them. That’s what people are thinking, that we’re trying to take away the fun. We’re just trying to take away the animals.”

In other words, people are absolutely correct in thinking that activists want to take away something important in their lives — namely, traditional interactions with animals.

Activists want to take away circuses with animals. They want to take away animal-based foods. They want to take away animal-based medical research. They want to take away aquariums and zoos and hunting, and many of them even want to take away domestic pets.

The problem for Gordon and her ilk is that people understand exactly what animal rights activists want to take away.


Ringmaster is needed to monitor this debate. Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2005.

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.

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.