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For Immediate Release: 09/20/05

Ex-Ringling Bros. Employee Exposes USDA Cover-Up of Baby Elephant Death

Never-Before-Seen Video Footage and Photographs Reveal Ringling Elephant Abuse

Press Conference 11:00am, Thursday, Sept. 22 on West Capitol Steps

Sacramento, CA — As Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus rolls into town on Thursday, Tom Rider, who worked with Ringling Bros. animals for two and a half years, will expose a major cover-up in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) exonerated Ringling Bros. from any responsibility for the death of a baby elephant. The agency cast aside ample evidence and concluding remarks from its own investigator that Ringling Bros.’ treatment of the elephant “precipitated in the physical harm and ultimate death of the animal.”

“It is my duty to bear witness to the abuse that I saw on a daily basis as a Ringling employee,” Tom Rider says. “Working with these extraordinary, intelligent creatures, I grew to love the gentle nature of the Asian elephants. I left them only to speak out on their behalf, determined to prevent such cruelty in the future and ensure they are protected under federal law,” he continues.

“Time and again, the USDA refuses to hold Ringling Bros. accountable for violations of federal law,” asserts Tracy Silverman, legal counsel for the Animal Welfare Institute, one of several organizations involved in a high-profile federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. for its mistreatment of Asian elephants under the Endangered Species Act. “The USDA has also refused to turn over critical documents to which we are entitled under the Freedom of Information Act, forcing us to file a separate lawsuit against the agency,” she says.

The Sacramento-based Animal Protection Institute (API) has given Ringling Bros. notice that it will be joining this lawsuit and it will provide footage and evidence of the extent of circus cruelty at Thursday’s press conference. Directly countering Ringling Bros.’ claims that it only chains elephants at night and while traveling, API plans to release for the very first time photographs of Ringling Bros.’ elephants chained before an afternoon performance.

“The time has come to raise the curtain on the cruelty behind the big top,” says API Chief Executive Officer Michelle Thew. “The shocking evidence that we have obtained demonstrates the routine abuse that circus animals face and the deception that the circus industry practices on a concerned public. This deception is made all the worse when the government agency charged with protecting these animals looks the other way when animals suffer and die.”

Information about the lead organizations, biographical details of the participants, details of the federal lawsuit, background reports, information about circus abuse and details of the extent of the USDA “cover up” are available in the press kit.


Michelle Thew, 916-233-8393
Tracy Silverman, 301-537-0612

*Press kit, video footage, and photographs available

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