PALMETTO – PETA protestors picketed in front of the Bradenton Area Convention Center Friday, where Manatee County was hosting the annual Florida Neighborhoods Conference. Protestors were trying to draw attention to what they say is cruel treatment of circus animals by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of the circus' parent company, Feld Entertainment, was at the conference to deliver the keynote address.
Signs read such slogans as, "Ringling = Cruelty in Your Backyard." PETA had obtained photos the group says were taken inside of Ringling's breeding and training compound that depict baby elephants being stretched out, slammed to the ground, and shocked with electric prods. Videos show Ringling elephants being hit will bull hooks just before performing.
PETA also claims that when the circus' tigers aren't performing, they're confined to small transport cages and that Ringling routinely violates a federal requirement that tigers have daily exercise opportunities apart from performances.
"The only audience that Kenneth Feld should be addressing is a judge to answer for Ringling's routine and severe abuse of elephants and tigers," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. "Because children love animals, the last place that parents should take them to is the circus."
Ringling and other circus promotions' treatment of animals, especially elephants, has continued to generate controversy. The city of Los Angeles is even considering a ban on performances by elephants within city limits because of widespread practices, seen as inhumane. In 2011, Ringling Bros. paid a fine of $270,000, the largest fine in circus history, for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
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