Elephants at the now defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Performances such as this continue throughout the country today. (Bill Sikes/AP)
As a Florida resident, I am constantly amazed by the response I often get when I tell people that Garden Brothers Circus is exhibiting Carson and Barnes elephants all over the state of Florida in their own backyards. Their faces scrunch up with a confused look followed by a quizzical statement like, “Huh?
No More Circus Elephants?
I thought there were no more elephants in the circus?
This is my cue, of course, to educate them about the fact that the circus is alive and well and (unless you live in NJ, IL or NY), likely coming to a town near you.
Ringling Brothers Last Show
In April, 2017, Ringling Brothers held its last show featuring elephants, ending Feld Entertainment’s 145 year run of exploitation.
However, there are still approximately 62 elephants in traveling circuses around the country.
Left is the Dregs of the Circus World
What is left after Ringling Brothers is the dregs of the circus world. The remaining circuses are comprised of exhibitors with lengthy histories of violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and continue to subject their elephants to cruel training methods, substandard housing, inadequate (if any) veterinary care and daily living conditions.
“If the average person knew about this, they certainly would not attend the circus. The problem is that people don’t know what they don’t know.” ~Dee Gaug, Save Nose Now, Inc.
All Americans Need to Know the Truth About Circus Elephants
As Americans, we have a right to know what is happening at the circus.
The USDA is the government agency tasked with enforcing the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This is the law that is supposed to protect circus animals.
If the USDA is not doing its job, shouldn’t that information be available to us? Well, the answer is yes, it is supposed to be.
Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public with access to federal agency records. The intent of this law was to keep citizens “in the know” about their government.
USDA Removed Searchable Online Database
However, In February 2017, the USDA, without warning, removed its searchable online database.
As a result of this move by the USDA, a number of Federal Lawsuits were filed by large, well funded organizations such as ALDF, HSUS, ASPCA and PETA urging the USDA to restore this information in its entirety.
Save Nosey Now, Inc. has outstanding FOIA requests that are a year old and remain unanswered. I personally have NEVER had a FOIA request answered by the USDA, in spite of many attempts.
AWA (Federal Animal Welfare Act) Database
This database contained information on licensees and licensee records required by the AWA. These records included inspection reports and enforcement actions taken by the USDA.
Not only is there a lack of transparency on how animals are used, it reeks of cover-ups, especially when there are so many corrupting influences at play. Having no reports on inspections of individual licensees also violates the law.
Kenneth Vail, Former USDA, Now Animal Welfare Act Compliance Officer for Feld Entertainment
A great example is Kenneth Vail.
For over 40 years, Vail worked for the USDA. At the time of his retirement in 2011, he held the position of Assistant General Counsel.
Sounds important, doesn’t it?
The bottom line is that he was directly involved in deciding whether or not to file enforcement actions against exhibitors (circuses).
Here is the part that really reeks: Nine months after his retirement, Vail started a new position as the Animal Welfare Act compliance officer for Feld Entertainment. Yes, he was working for Ringling Brother’s parent company which he formerly regulated!
You can read the scathing 2010 report on the USDA here https://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-4-SF.pdf All of these “deficiencies in enforcement” occurred during Vail’s tenure.
The Battle is Far From Over
Save Nosey Now, Inc. is a small organization, and we do not have the resources to file federal lawsuits, although we are cheering on those who have!
The USDA has restored some records to its database. However, most have either not been restored or have been so heavily redacted (blacked out) that they are meaningless. This battle is far from over.
Fighting for the Ones Without a Voice
While this battle is being fought through the court system, Save Nosey Now, Inc. is doing its part by educating the public about the circuses that still exist and about the complacency and complicit acts on both the state and federal levels with agencies such as the USDA, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
BROKEN, the Truth about the Cruelty Circus Elephants Suffer Through
The Documentary BROKEN will bring this information to the masses.
“Our goal with this film is to provide the truths about the cruelty inflicted on elephants in circuses, and the failure of government agencies tasked to protect these magnificent animals, and to make names like Kenneth Vail common knowledge.” ~Dee Gaug, Save Nosey Now, Inc.