Circus Elephant Abuse Case Hits Court

Animal rights groups allege circus group engages in jumbo-sized cruelty
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2009 3:35 AM CST

(Newser) – The nation's circus elephants finally have their day in court, reports the Washington Post. Animal rights groups who accuse circuses of mistreating their elephants have battled for eight years to bring a case against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. In opening arguments in Washington DC district court yesterday, an attorney for the groups brandished a sharp bull hook used for controlling the animals to make her case.

The groups are seeking to stop circuses from disciplining the animals with hooks and chaining them for long periods as they move from town to town. A lawyer for the circus group labeled the lawsuit "an assault on an American institution, asking: "What's a circus without elephants?" He denied that the elephants had been harshly treated and argued that circus elephants live longer and healthier lives than wild ones. The trial is expected to last a month.