Ringling Bros. record makes its criticism empty
To the editor:
Ringling Bros. lobbyist Stephen Payne's assertion that the circus "meet[s] or exceed[s] every local, state and federal animal welfare regulation" is patently false ("City Council decision severs amazing bond," letter, August 16). Ringling has been cited for more than 150 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including causing animals trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort, and repeatedly failing to provide adequate veterinary care.
In fact, Ringling paid the highest penalty of any animal exhibitor in the entire 50-year history of the Animal Welfare Act.
Local authorities have also found problems with Ringling, including repeated failure to allow tigers adequate space and exercise. According to inspections, Ringling routinely confines tigers — who have vast home ranges in the wild — to tiny cages except for the few moments they're on stage.
Payne's claim that animals have an "amazing bond" with the humans who force them to perform is also bogus. Animals don't perform unnatural and often painful circus tricks because they want to, and they certainly don't do it because of a "bond." They do it because they are terrified of the punishment they know that they'll face if they don't. Abundant evidence reveals that Ringling and other circuses force other wild animals to perform through routine beatings.
Kudos to the Pittsfield City Council for standing up to false statements by those who care first and foremost about profiting off the ongoing exploitation of wild animals.
Delcianna J. Winders,
Medford, The writer is an animal law & policy fellow, Harvard Law School.