Victory For Endangered Elephants As Court Rules Against Ringling Bros. Circus

The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that dismissed a case on procedural grounds charging Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus with violating the Endangered Species Act. The ruling clears the way for the case brought by a former Ringling Brother's employee, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and The Fund for Animals to present their case that Ringling Brothers routinely beats its elephants with bull hooks to perform.

The decision by the court which grants the plaintiffs standing was based strongly upon the statements of former Ringling Bros. elephant trainer and co-plaintiff in the case, Tom Rider, who while employed by Ringling Brothers, witnessed routine beatings of the circus elephants with bull hooks.

Consequently the United States Court of Appeals unanimously found that Tom Rider suffers "aesthetic and emotional injury" from seeing the elephants perform in the circus. The court found that Rider developed "a strong, personal attachment to these animals" while working with the elephants at Ringling Bros. for two years. Rider left Ringling Bros. because of the mistreatment of the elephants.

"The ASPCA is extremely pleased with the court's decision which allows us to pursue this case. We believe we will successfully prove that Ringling Bros. engages in ongoing abuse of the elephants during the separation process of babies from their mothers, and in the training of elephants to perform" stated Lisa Weisberg, senior vice president of Government Affairs and Public Policy at the ASPCA. "We think that the public deserves to know the truth about what goes on under the 'Big Top'" continues Michael Markarian, President for The Fund for Animals.
Cathy Liss, President for the Animal Welfare Institute concludes, "Elephants including babies have suffered greatly at the hands of Ringling Brothers, our lawsuit simply seeks to stop the torture."

The groups are represented in the case by the public interest law firm of Meyer & Glitzenstein.
Ms. Katherine Meyer argued the case for the appellants.

A copy of the court's order is available by visiting

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