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Monday, May 19, 2014

Circus Elephants: Abuse Case Settled, Restrictions Debated

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus artists and elephants perform during Barnum's FUNundrum in New York on March 26, 2010. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus artists and elephants perform during Barnum’s FUNundrum in New York on March 26, 2010. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, the Humane Society and other animal rights activists paid $15 million to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, to settle a lawsuit alleging the circus abused its animals, but which was called “frivolous” by a judge hearing the case.

Because the case was settled, the courts never ruled on the question of animal abuse. One Virginia Congressman wants to limit circus use of animals.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran has re-filed a bill to restrict the use of exotic animals by traveling circuses. He discusses the measure with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights: U.S. Rep. Jim Moran

On the effect of the ruling on the cause

“It’s not really a setback. The conclusion was fairly predictable: the judge ruled that the animal welfare groups did not have standing to bring the case. The issue is still alive. I don’t consider it a defeat. It’s a bit of a setback, but it’s not one that we couldn’t have predicted.”

On educating people about treatment of animals in circuses

“I think all we can do is present the facts: they use these bullhooks, whips, metal pipes, kicks to the head. That’s how they get them to perform. And we have any number of cases where we have seen the animals have been confined for, in some cases, 98 percent of their life in a small, little cage.”

On circuses’ argument that they raise people’s animal awareness

“They should be aware of wild animals as they normally function in the wild. Their perception of an elephant or a lion or a tiger should not be standing on their hind legs, bouncing a ball.”

On the chance of his circus animal protection bill being passed

“It’s not impossible, but I know that there’s a lot of resistance to it. We can’t give up, because the animals can’t speak out for themselves.”


  • Jim Moran, Democratic U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 8th congressional district. He tweets @Jim_Moran.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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