Byline: David Sherfinski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. has introduced legislation to curb the restrictions on exotic animals in traveling circuses by ending confinement for extended periods and stopping cruel training and control methods.
"The mounting evidence of inhumane treatment and the growing public concern for these animals demands that we reconsider what are appropriate living conditions for these intelligent, social creatures," said Mr. Moran, Virginia Democrat.
His office said the parent company of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus paid a record $270,000 fine to the federal government over claims of Animal Welfare Act violations between June 2007 and August 2011.
"Due to the very nature of the traveling circus, wild animals cannot move around or exercise naturally. They live their whole lives chained or tied up, or in small cages that fit on the back of a truck," said Animal Defenders International (ADI) President Jan Creamer. "This lack of freedom leads to health, behavioral and psychological problems. Our investigations have shown that violence to control animals is part of circus culture. Animals are beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks. This brutality has no place in modern society."
The bill targets only the most extreme conditions "and would not impact zoos, aquariums, rodeos or other static facilities with captive wildlife," Mr. Moran's office said.
Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, fired back by saying that "once again," Mr. Moran "has discriminatorily targeted traveling circuses" and that the bill "is completely unnecessary and unjustified by facts or science."
Mr. Payne said the legislation would remove Americans' right to choose whether the circus can continue to operate and that it threatens the jobs of more than 750 full-time employees.
"[T]he public safety and animal care record of Ringling Bros. is exemplary," Mr. Payne said in a statement, pointing out that Ringling Bros. has never actually been found in violation of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.
The settlement agreement, Mr. Payne continued, is "clear proof" that the circus and other traveling exhibitors operate in a highly regulated environment with multiple layers of laws that govern animal welfare.
"As always we stand behind the skill, compassion and quality of care provided by our animal care and veterinary staff, and we believe that the vast majority of Americans agree with us and reject the extreme animal rights agenda embodied in this bill," Mr. Payne said.