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Hundreds of protestors blast Ringling Bros.' treatment of elephants

By Omar Shamout
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at 09:46PM

PETA calls Ringling Bros. Circus the "Cruelest Show on Earth."



Hundreds of animal rights activists gathered outside Staples Center Wednesday at a PETA-organized rally against Ringling Bros. Circus – an organization protestors say abuses the wild animals in its traveling show.

Clad in tiger suits, paper-mache elephant heads and faux-ringleader outfits, the contingent lined both sides of Figueroa Boulevard to greet patrons with posters showing what they say is photographic evidence of the inhumane treatment of circus elephants by Ringling Bros. trainers. Most of the circus’ endangered Asian elephants are raised from captivity at the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Central Florida.

PETA spokesman Matt Bruce called on Angelenos to boycott Ringling Bros. and argued there is no such thing as a humane circus that uses animal performers. Bruce said the baby elephants on display inside Staples Center were “torn from their families, forced to perform under the threat of extreme punishment, gouged with bull hooks, and even tied to the concrete floor of a barn for up to 23 hours a day to break their spirit.”

Bruce pointed to the 35 U.S. municipalities in 18 states that have instituted partial or full bans of circus animals as evidence that the group’s message is winning people over. Local cities such as Pasadena, Huntington Beach, Irvine and Santa Ana are all included in that group.

Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. Circus, denied those claims on AirTalk with Larry Mantle Wednesday morning and Ringling. Bros. has previously argued that the tricks performed by the elephants are based on “natural behavior.”

PETA, however, displays a photo slideshow on its website that the organization says disproves that assertion.

Additionally, Ringling Bros. was fined $270,000 by the United States Department of Agriculture last November for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act, though Feld denies those charges too.

Sherman Oaks resident Scott Gardner, 31, volunteers for PETA and said local families looking to experience the wonders of animal life in person should look into farm animal sanctuaries such as The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita, Calif. and Animal Acres in Acton, Calif.

As far more exotic animals, Gardner noted that PETA members hold differing views on the legitimacy of zoos, but he said San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park would be a better option than the circus.

“[It’s] a little bit more open and it feels a little bit more natural. I would say that would probably be the better of the alternatives," Gardner said.

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