Circus Lobby Throws Big Money Against Animal Rights Efforts

AP PhotoNext time you take your kids to the circus, make sure you pay special attention to the animals performing on the stage. Chances are good that most are there thanks to the efforts of big-money lobbyists.

According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, spent $355,000 on federal lobbying, up from $280,000 in 2011 and just $120,000 in 2007. notes that Feld Entertainment hired 10 lobbyists in 2012, which they use to fight against animal rights efforts with a combination of their in-house government affairs office and outside firms.

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) seems to be their biggest foe. As Chairman of the 84-member Animal Protection Caucus, Moran has promoted legislation that would prevent Asian elephants from performing in traveling shows, which would no doubt hurt Ringling Bros. bottom-line.

"Given the major problems facing our nation, some consider this a low priority. I disagree," Moran told prior to the 2012 election. "Whether enacting laws to prevent the sale of dog and cat fur, banning the barbaric practice of horse slaughter, or pressing for more humane treatment of circus elephants, lions and tigers, we have sensitized Congress to issues that would otherwise be ignored."

Back in September, Feld Entertainment brought their big guns to an Anaheim City Council meeting to fight an ordnance intended to prevent the mistreatment and abuse of elephants. The bills sponsor, Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, caved under the pressure and pulled her proposed ban, allowing Ringling Bros. to continue a five-year deal to perform at Anaheim's Honda Center.

Anaheim isn't the only city to consider legislation preventing the use of elephants. According to the New York Times, Los Angeles is currently considering a ban on circuses that feature performing elephants. According to City Councilman Paul Korets, "The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it’s time for us to stand up for them."

A Mother Jones investigation into Ringling Bros. found life is pretty miserable for the elephants performing in the circus: 

Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants. They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity.

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