COK's Anti-Ringling Campaign Hits Another Landmark
from No Compromise Issue 16

By Paul Shapiro

Each year since 1997, D.C.-based animal rights organization Compassion Over Killing (COK) has made the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus feel extremely unwelcome when it brings its traveling slave show into the District.

In 1997, five COK activists used steel pipe lockboxes to blockade the sole animal entrance to the D.C. Armory for two hours. In 1998, another five COK activists used kryptonite bike locks to attach their necks together, taking over center ring at the MCI Center, delaying the beginning of Ringling's performance for nearly 30 minutes. And, in 1999, two COK activists locked themselves to the underside of a car to block the only animal entrance to D.C. Armory, preventing the circus from forcing the Bengal tigers to perform.

In 2000, the campaign hit another landmark when on March 23, two COK activists scaled the MCI Center and dropped a 50-foot long banner reading, "RINGLING KILLS ANIMALS." For three hours, the activists remained more than 100 feet above ground, letting the world know how Ringling's routine beatings and psychological deprivation of animals has literally caused many animals to die.

Both activists were arrested, held overnight, and charged with misdemeanor unlawful entry. At their arraignment the next day, all charges were dropped.

In just a two-year period, Ringling Bros. circus has been cited by the USDA for 65 noncompliances with the Animal Welfare Act. On January 7, 1998, a Ringling Bros. trainer shot Arnie, a caged tiger, five times, killing him, after he had attacked another trainer earlier that day. On January 24, 1998, Kenny, a baby endangered Asian elephant died after being forced to perform for Ringling while sick. Ringling Bros. agreed to pay a $20,000 fine in order to avoid an actual conviction. And, on February 23, 1999, Sabre, a horse being used by Ringling Bros., collapsed and died in front of a crowd of onlookers in the street in Norfolk, Va., just before a performance.

When not performing, animals in the circus are kept in chains and travel almost nonstop, up to 12,000 miles each year. When animals outlive their "usefulness," they are often sold by circuses to exotic game farms to be shot for a fee, or they languish in cramped cages at roadside zoos for the remainder of their lives.