Animal-rights activists protest Ringling Bros. circus at Izod Center
Friday March 9, 2012
BY ERIK SHILLING,STAFF WRITER
EAST RUTHERFORD — About a dozen protesters shouted slogans and played graphic videos of elephant abuse outside the Izod Center on Friday night as spectators — including scores of children — arrived for the opening night of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The protests, which have dogged the circus for years because of alleged animal abuse, were given new life in November, when Feld Entertainment of Vienna, Va., which owns Ringling Bros., agreed to pay $270,000 to settle allegations that its handling of elephants, tigers, zebras and other exotic animals violated federal animal welfare laws.
The government said then that the fine was the largest ever assessed against an animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act.
“It’s inexcusable what our species is doing to another species,” said Ray Ipolito, 42, a protester from Ridgewood.
The protest Friday was sponsored by Friends of Animals United NJ/NY, or FAUN, a nonprofit based in Red Bank.
“When people come in, they guard their kids … but afterwards, this booth is packed,” Ipolito said, referring to the protest area. He cited a stunt in which exotic animals jump through hoops of fire and added, “When was the last time you saw a ring of fire in the jungle?”
In a statement, Feld Entertainment dismissed the protesters’ concerns.
“Activist groups who distribute false and inaccurate information about the animal care at Ringling Bros. will never be satisfied with animals being presented to the public no matter how humane the care,” the statement read. “Everyone who comes to Ringling Bros. can see for themselves that the animals are healthy and well adjusted.”
The allegations are nothing new for the company, but the fine last year gave new credence to the accusations. Among other allegations, federal inspection reports released then said circus handlers made elephants perform when they were ill and used the same wheelbarrows to feed meat to tigers and haul away their waste.
The alleged abuse is “all about maintaining profit,” said Anthony Botti, FAUN’s founder.
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