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For Immediate Release: 08/13/09

Former Esther’s Follies star says circus cruelty is no laughing matter

Shocking undercover video bolsters lawsuit against Ringling Brothers Circus for elephant abuse

Austin, TX — As Ringling Bros. circus prepares to open in Austin, new undercover video of its handlers beating elephants with bullhooks is spreading like wildfire on the Internet and in the media. Born Free USA, a plaintiff in the federal trial against Ringling Bros., points to this investigation as further evidence that Ringling Bros. circus is violating the Endangered Species Act by abusing Asian elephants.

“All the evidence, ranging from this new investigative footage to statements by Ringling’s own CEO, proves that elephants endure a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the circus,” said Nicole G. Paquette, Esq., a witness in the case and senior vice president of Born Free USA. “In California, treating a dog the way Ringling treats its elephants would land a person in jail.”

Video from the 2009 investigation by PETA shows handlers repeatedly striking elephants with bullhooks, while evidence from the trial brought an admission from Kenneth Feld, CEO of Ringling’s parent company, that “all elephant handlers at Ringling strike elephants with bullhooks.”

“There’s nothing entertaining about watching elephants perform unnatural tricks in the circus, especially when they are trained to do so with force — by the cruel use of a sharp, heavy club,” said Mandy Steckelberg, actress, singer, and former star of the popular 6th Street comedy club, Esther’s Follies. “The cast of Esther’s Follies knows a little something about entertainment, and mistreating endangered Asian elephants is no laughing matter.”

Born Free USA and fellow plaintiffs ASPCA, Animal Welfare Institute, Fund for Animals, and former Ringling employee Tom Rider are calling for all Texans to skip the circus and stop animal abuse.

Born Free USA is a leading national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally. More information is available at www.bornfreeusa.org. Details on the trial against Ringling Bros. circus, including trial documents and exhibits, can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org/ringling.


Nicole Paquette, Born Free USA, nicole@bornfreeusa.org, 916.622.7170


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