Friday, August 24, 2012
The circus has come to town, but it's not without controversy. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been in business for 142 years, and last year it paid a $270,000 fine for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
If Kelly the elephant could talk, would she still be shaking her head "no" to claims Ringling Brothers is routinely abusing its elephants to get them to perform circus tricks? Her trainer Joey Frisco said he's been around elephants all of his life and as a third generation trainer, he disagrees with people who claim the animals are being mistreated at the circus.
"Absolutely false," Frisco said. He said 85 percent of their training is done with verbal commands and the steel-tipped bullhook or guide is only used to get their attention when distracted.
"I don't know many people who could reach over and touch an elephant and say come here, and it's (the guide) just an extension of our arm. It's been turned into something else to make it look like we're doing something wrong, but we know we're not and mostly everybody else knows that we're not," Frisco said.
But the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disagrees. About two dozen members protested downtown near Horton plaza, including PETA organizer Matt Bruce.
"We've reached out to Ringling a number of times and they never respond back to us because they don't have a leg to stand on," Bruce said.
He said PETA's main objective is to have the circus eliminate wild animals from performing all together.
"There's a high number of deaths that have happened on their watch, the long list of animal welfare violations, the recent fine the USDA levied against them, the largest fine in circus history for multiple violations of the animal welfare act," he said.
The Ringling Brothers Circus runs through Sunday at the Valley View Casino Center. But Adam Schenck, who observed the protest, said he won't be going to the circus.
"I'm glad to see it, it's good for people to get out there and inform people about what might be going on with the circus. And it puts the pressure on Ringling Bros to prove they are treating the animals well," he said.