Coalition of animal groups submit comments opposing elephant and tiger export to US Fish and Wildlife Service
Animal Defenders International has joined PETA and a coalition of seven other animal protection organizations including Animal Legal Defense Fund, AnimaNaturalis, Consejo Ciudadano de Seguridad Pública y Procuración de Justicia del Distrito Federal, ElephantVoices, Gente por la Defensa Animal, In Defense of Animals, and Naturaleza Animal A.C. submitted formal comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) calling on the agency to deny an application by Feld Entertainment, Inc., parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, to take endangered Asian elephants and tigers to Mexico and other unidentified foreign locations.
Although the Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits the exportation and importation of endangered species, Ringling has applied for an exception that allows imports and exports if they enhance the species’ survival. However, various animal protection groups have collected extensive under cover video footage and other evidence showing that, far from enhancing species’ survival, Ringling routinely beats tigers, Asian elephants, and other endangered animals in order to force them to perform in flagrant violation of the ESA.
Ringling was recently assessed a $270,000 fine, the largest monetary penalty ever paid by an animal exhibitor for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The settlement noted that more than a dozen inspections had resulted in reports of noncompliance with regulations. According to the USDA, violations included incidents such as a zebra escaping over a fence and ending up on a busy highway, handlers losing control of an elephant, and circus staff using the same wheelbarrows for tigers’ wastes as their food.
This unprecedented punitive settlement is a clear indication for the need to pass federal legislation to protect wild animals in traveling circuses.
Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) who introduced H.R. 3359, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) alongside ADI, commented on the settlement and called for the passage of this bill. “The [USDA] announcement indicates that mistreatment of animals in violation of the law – despite claims to the contrary from the traveling circus industry – is widespread and persistent,” said Rep. Moran. “The mounting evidence of inhumane treatment and growing public concern for these animals demands that we reconsider the appropriate living conditions provided for these intelligent, social creatures.”
TEAPA aims to end the use of wild animals in traveling circuses in the U.S. – click here to find out how you can get involved.