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Congressman Jim Moran Proposes to Ban Exotic Animals in Traveling Circuses

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey says Moran should have "picked up the phone" to consult with them on his proposed legislation.

An elephant performs in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment
An elephant performs in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment

Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) wants to ban the use of exotic animals in traveling circuses, a move that doesn't sit well with the largest circus company in the country, which happens to be headquartered in his own backyard. 

The proposal, which Moran introduced Wednesday and which he has previously attempted to pass, would impact Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which is headquartered in Northern Virginia just outside Moran's district. The circus' roots run deep in the area, with Bailey's Crossroads, which is in Moran's district, getting its name from the circus founders. 

With his proposed legislation, Moran is "threatening hundreds of jobs and wants to deny millions of Americans the enjoyment of seeing these animals," said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for the circus.

"We've gone through this rigamarole before," Payne said. "It's sad that he never bothered to find out factual information from people in his own district." Moran, Payne said, "prides himself on constituent services. Really? He couldn't pick up the phone?"

Moran, co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 4525) to restrict the use of exotic, non-domestic animals touring with circuses.

"From video and photographic evidence, it’s clear that traveling circuses aren’t providing the proper living conditions for exotic animals," Moran said in a news release. "This legislation is intended to target the most egregious situations involving exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses.” 

“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,” Moran said.

Payne said that the circus has never been found in violation of the federal animal welfare act. The proposed legislation, he said, is "a slap in the face to the hundreds of men and women who care for the animals." The company goes into detail on its Web site  and in a Q&A there about how it cares for its animals.

Moran noted that various news reports have exposed the mistreatment of wild animals in traveling circus shows, including limited travel space and long hours inside vehicles, cruel training methods and stress from abnormal living conditions. 

In one recent case, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, according to Moran, agreed to pay a record $270,000 fine to the United States Department of Agriculture in response to claims of Animal Welfare Act violations between June 2007 and August 2011.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) President Jan Creamer weighed in in support of Moran’s proposal, saying: “Magnificent wild animals have no place in a traveling circus, and with this bill, the US takes the lead with 27 countries across the world that have taken action of end the suffering. 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. This lack of freedom leads to health, behavioral and psychological problems."

Payne said that the circus helps animals, particularly elephants, by providing a sanctuary for them at its Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. "A portion of every ticket goes to conservation programs to save this magnificent species to keep them from extinction," Payne said. 

"Our investigations have shown that violence to control animals is part of circus culture," Creamer said. "Animals are beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks. This brutality has no place in modern society.”

The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act would "reform the use of all exotic animals in traveling circuses. The bill would end the confinement of animals for extended periods in temporary facilities, stop cruel training and control methods employed by circuses, and limit the danger these animals pose to public safety."

The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act targets only the most egregious conditions and would not impact zoos, aquariums, rodeos or other static facilities with captive wildlife, according to Moran.

In Los Angeles, the city council on Wednesday banned the use of bull hooks and other tools by elephant trainers in traveling circuses.

"We're not going to come to L.A. without our elephants," Payne told the Los Angeles Times. "The Asian elephant has been a symbol of Ringling Bros. for 144 years. We cannot bring them without using USDA-approved husbandry tools."

Douglas Willard May 04, 2014 at 10:43 AM
Thanks to Mary Ann for posting this. Thanks to the humans who have responded in favor of this bill. Little can be said of those making negative comments, except that low intellect and zero spirituality are guiding such individuals. Cruelty to living beings is WRONG. Subjugating wild animals by beating and torturing for the purpose of human entertainment is clearly wrong. Attending an animal circus supports cruelty. We cannot hope to end poverty and suffering for humans if we are too ignorant and belligerent to say NO TO THE ANIMAL CIRCUS. I feel sorry for the animals and for people like Bob 5/2/14
Cliff Herthel May 04, 2014 at 08:11 PM
9 Critically Injured in Ringling Bros. Circus Accident Not saying I want bad things to happen to anyone but KARMAS A BITCH
Bob May 05, 2014 at 08:54 AM
Typical lib's - let's just keep trying the peanut butter approach to government where ton's of money is spent and little is accomplished....cliff - you are a piece of work to take and accident where performers where hurt and to say that. What goes around comes around....
Cliff Herthel May 05, 2014 at 08:24 PM
YOU are a piece of work I don't want to see anyone hurt I want to see the circus get sued. Typical GOP opening mouth and have no idea what is coming out of it The idiots in congress can not do the job is why there is a money problem. All GOP wants to do is undermine Obama weather he is wrong or right. Karma was for the circus not the people. Get out of your GOP cloud and see real life. I am not a Dem I am a former GOP now Independent because of the GOP like you blind to what is going on in life and the world. So go ahead talk more bs that you have no idea what you are talking about BOB
Bob May 06, 2014 at 08:15 AM
HAHAHA how childish...back to the name calling. It would be nice if you could stay on topic and not start a rant. Thank you Cliff for the comments - you really can't make this stuff up.

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