SPECIAL REPORT: Animal Rights Under the Big Top

As anyone with a fur coat or a leather basketball will tell you, the animal rights worldview isn’t limited to attacking the food on our plates. The movement seems to have its tentacles in everything — clothing, medical research, even entertainment. In recent years, activists have gone after zoos, aquariums, theme park exhibits, and even circuses.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is, of course, the greatest source of anti-circus misinformation. And PETA has also emerged as a sort of clearinghouse for smaller, regional animal rights groups who yearn for a cheap shot at The Greatest Show On Earth but lack the propaganda firepower.

Two such cases have been unfolding this year, one in Canada and the other in Maine. North of the border, the Edmonton city council voted down a proposal that would have outlawed the use of animals in circus acts. Councilman Ron Hayter described the PETA-inspired proposal as “misleading propaganda.”

“It’s an attempt,” Hayter told the Edmonton Sun, “of the few to impose their idea of what is right on the many. I don’t like their tactics, their efforts to confuse and mislead. In my 25 years on council, I have learned to ignore the shrill voices of fanatics.”

Closer to home, Maine legislators are considering a measure that would criminalize the use of elephants in all traveling exhibitions, including circuses. Last Wednesday, an overflow crowd packed a public hearing room in Augusta, where former state Rep. Christopher Muse (D-Killjoy) insisted that the simple act of “moving [elephants] from town to town” constitutes “abuse.”

Once again, a local animal rights group (Maine Friends of Animals – MFOA) is leading the charge, but the measure has PETA’s fingerprints all over it. Local activist Robert Fisk, Jr. told the Portland Press Herald that the effort is “not affiliated with PETA,” but Fisk’s own website brags that “many national groups” support “MFOA and [its campaign] ‘Elephant Free in 2003’.”

National groups like PETA have long antagonized http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,42494,00.html target=_blank>traveling circuses and their professional animal trainers, tastelessly taking their propaganda directly to unsuspecting children. https://www.consumerfreedom.com/headline_detail.cfm?HEADLINE_ID=1655>A few months ago we caught a few activists plotting online the best way to get to kids on circus-bound school field trips. And PETA is famous for stalking children and their families on their way to the Big Top. Last year CNN commentator Tucker Carlson upbraided PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk because his four-year-old son was harassed by a group of PETA protesters in front of a Ringling Brothers event.

PETA tried last summer to rehabilitate the image of its anti-circus program by forcing the Washington, DC government to include its “weeping elephant” statue in a city-wide art exhibit. When PETA’s sculpture was unveiled, however, reporters noticed that it bore a telling monogram on its hindquarters: the initials A-L-F, a clear tip of PETA’s hat to the terrorist Animal Liberation Front.

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