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Ringling Brothers: The show isn’t over

US authority approved export of big cats from Ringling Brothers Circus to Germany.


BOSTON - AUGUST, 11, 2017 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has jeopardized the integrity of wildlife conservation by allowing the trainer of Ringling Brothers Circus to transport 15 animals on the endangered species list to Europe for human entertainment and profit.


This week FOUR PAWS – the international animal welfare organization – learned that an Endangered Species Act permit will be granted on Monday August 14th to Feld Entertainment Inc., the parent company of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The issuance will not be made public for another three to four months due to delays caused by the new U.S. administration. The permit allows eight tigers, six lions, and one leopard to be brought overseas for use in German circuses. The circus will have five years to export the 15 remaining animals.


FOUR PAWS was one of many animal welfare organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, that submitted comments to FWS in opposition of the permit. Of the 113,000 comments regarding permits up for review, a majority were directed towards the Feld Entertainment permit. Although authorization to export wild animals from the U.S. to Europe can be granted under the Endangered Species Act, this can only be done if the effort helps the preservation of the species. Clearly, this is not the case. “FOUR PAWS has witnessed first-hand the trauma big cats endure from circuses,” remarked FOUR PAWS Research and Campaigns Officer Melanie Lary. “Physical ailments include malnutrition, tooth decay and missing teeth, chronic pain from declawing, arthritis from ongoing repetitive movements, and other abnormal behaviors. These conditions develop due to harsh training methods, unfit keeping conditions, unnatural social housing, and frequent travelling.”


Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had ceased operations in May 2017. The parent company, Feld Entertainment, then applied to export the cats, who are legally owned by trainer Alexander Lacey, to Germany. Germany is one of the few countries left in Europe that allow wildlife in circuses. Twenty-two countries across Europe have complete or partial bans on the use of wildlife for performances. In return for exporting the animals, Feld Entertainment will make a donation to an Indian animal protection organization.


“As part of a circus, these animals will be deprived of their basic social, spatial, and health needs. Any situation that calls for an animal to be succumbed to this type of treatment is not helping the preservation of the species or its quality of life,” remarked FOUR PAWS Executive Director Robert Ware. “The public needs to be informed of how serious this is and the implications it sets for other organizations moving forward.”