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ASPCA Pays Ringling Bros. in Elephant Lawsuit

Want to know the truly nutty part about this story, it is that the American Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (a legit animal rights organization not known for being crazy like the gang at PeTA) were initially the plaintiffs in this case over a decade ago.

I’m not a lawyer, but something had to come up in the discovery phase which caused attitudes to change.

An animal rights group will pay Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $9.3 million to settle a lawsuit the circus filed after courts found that activists paid a former circus worker for his help in claiming the circus abused elephants.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Friday it was not admitting any wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit. The New York-based animal rights group was one of several involved in a lawsuit filed in 2000 against the circus’ owner, Feld Entertainment Inc., claiming elephants were abused. Courts later found that the animal rights activists had paid a former Ringling barn helper involved in the lawsuit at least $190,000, making him “essentially a paid plaintiff” who lacked credibility.

Two courts agreed the former barn helper, Tom Rider, wasn’t credible and didn’t have a right to sue. As a result, they didn’t address claims the circus violated the federal Endangered Species Act by allegedly chaining the elephants for long periods and allowing trainers to use sharp tools called bullhooks.

The Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment Inc. sued the animal rights groups and Rider in 2007, accusing them of conspiring to harm the company’s business and other illegal acts. The lawsuit claims the groups were working together with the goal of permanently banning Asian elephants from circuses.

Friday’s settlement covers only the ASPCA. Twelve other defendants including The Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute and The Fund for Animals are still involved in the lawsuit.

Animal rights groups have been targeting the use of elephants in a number of circuses for years, most of it based on the information Rider has given them.  Since then, it has become a cause celeb with the Hollywood set with attempts to get the circus banned in as many cities as they can.

They’ve made so much headway (six Southern California cities already ban circus elephants) in these efforts that just last week, Los Angeles was said to be considering an all-out ban on circuses with elephants in them.

I’m against any cruelty to animals on principle.  You have to have some sort of evil in your heart to willingly abuse, neglect and attack an animal.  That being said, it seem incredibly counter-productive for circuses — who need their elephants healthy and performing at their best — to willingly abuse their animals.

With this being potentially the first of what could be many settlements Ringling Bros. could be getting from animal rights groups, you have to start wondering if they’ve over-played their hand here and by how much.  If they had over-whelming proof of abuse against the elephants, then why do they need to pay a man to testify that it was going on?

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