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Elephant Protesters Return to O.C.

Ringling Bros. circus comes to town, and not everyone is happy about it.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will begin an eight-day run Friday night at the Honda Center, where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans to protest the handling of elephants.

Buoyed by a Tuesday court ruling that prohibited elephant handlers at the Los Angeles Zoo from using bull hooks and electrical shocks to control the animals, PETA will protest Ringling's use of such methods. Last year, PETA was involved in getting the .

Bull hooks are "used to strike elephants, to jab them, to cause pain to get them to behave as the handler wants them to," said Delcianna Winders of PETA.

Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said bull hooks are "long accepted elephant husbandry tools used by highly trained professionals. Their use is accepted by the USDA and we're regularly inspected by the USDA" which he said inspected the circus when it was in Los Angeles earlier this month.

Winders argued that state law prevents the use of the bull hooks, a central issue in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Zoo.

"State law prohibits elephant abuse and the bull hook constitutes elephant abuse," Winders said.

Payne criticized animal rights activists for going too far in some of their protests. When the circus was in Los Angeles, he said protesters called parents "child abusers" for bringing their children to the show. "You can have an opinion, but when you make young children cry and upset their parents with extremely outrageous claims" it's going too far, Payne said.

Winders agreed that sort of protest is over the line.

"PETA never condones actions like that," Winders said. "We organize peaceful protests and instruct everyone participating to be respectful to other people." Unfortunately, some more strident protesters not affiliated with PETA join in the demonstrations, she said.

The 15 circus performances at Staples Center drew more than 100,000 people and the 18 shows at Honda Center are expected to attract 140,000, Payne said.

The show is titled "Dragons," celebrating the Chinese year of the dragon. It combines mystic dragon lore with circus feats of bravery and athleticism and a 22-foot tall, 4,000-pound dragon, with nearly 2,000 scales, all hand-sewn.

The acts include:

  • the Shaolin Warriors, a Kung Fu martial arts troupe
  • the Riders of the Wind, who ride into the ring aboard thoroughbred horses and perform intricate maneuvers on horseback, including a double-man pyramid that builds to a five-man high pyramid while the horses are galloping at full speed
  • the Globe of Steel, where eight members of the Torres family ride on specialized motorcycles inside a 16-foot steel globe
  • what is billed as the only big cat act in the United States featuring both tigers and lions together
  • the Hair Hang Heroines, who ascend 35 feet in the air from just the strands of their long dark hair, juggling, flipping and spiraling down a silk chiffon, relying on the pure strength of their hair
  • the Flying Caceres, a trapeze act including a forward triple somersault and troupe leader George Caceres undertaking a full twisting double bar-to-bar somersault
  • animals, including the largest herd of Asian elephants of any North American circus; horses, ponies, mini-donkeys and goats; rescue dogs and domestic cats scaling a kitty low wire, balancing on top of balls, jumping through hula hoops and walking across parallel bars only using their front paws
  • the acrobatic troupes the Russian Bar Renegades and Teeterboard Titans, who try to outdo each other as they vault from a 12-foot long, six-inch wide bar
  • the dueling motorcycle high wire, where two two daredevil riders race their motorcycles on specially designed high wires suspended 30 feet over the audience, while aerialists perform flips and spins from the motorcycles.

Here is the schedule for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at the Honda Center:

Tonight -- 7:30 p.m.

Saturday -- 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

Sunday -- 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday -- 1 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

Thursday -- 10:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 3 -- 1 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 -- 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 5 -- 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

-- City News Service

To read more about PETA's pro-elephant efforts, click on this that appeared in Laguna Niguel Patch.

To read more about Ringling Bros.' pro-elephant efforts, click on their Center for Elephant Conservation page.

Cj Ellie July 27, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Ringling ability to convince thousands of people that they love, treat and train their wild animal performers humanely in light of all the irrefutable evidence that they beat these animals to make them perform tricks, reminds me of how easy it was for Jerry Sandusky to convince people that he would never hurt children ( now we know he was lying). Even when people saw him abusing these kids behind closed doors, no one spoke up. There is no excuse for abuse of the innocent to still be happening in the 21st century. Once upon a time slavery, child labor, racism, and beating your spouse was OK, now we know that it was not OK, just like it is not OK to continue to ignore this animal abuse just because the circus has been entertains us for decades under the disguise of wholesome family entertainment.
Paul C. July 29, 2012 at 01:36 AM
I am not associated with any animal group. I am writing this because I used to take my family to the circus until I found out the facts. As far as elephants, they are not a domesticated animal like a dog or horse. You cannot train them with treats. They only respond when you hurt them. How you get them to perform the type of tricks the circus does, is inflict an enormous amount of pain initially and continuously. That is with a bull hook and electric shock. When these elephants see the bull hook in their trainers hands, they remember what was done to them..remember, they never forget. I am amazed that Mr. payne called the bull hook a "tool". So, when you see the animals in this circus, you need to know the suffering that they go through for your entertainment...
Joker Joe July 31, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I will not go or promote the circus. Too many documented cases of abuse. I salute PETA.

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