By Dan Mathews
Dear Mr. Kerwin,
As an AU alum, I was disappointed to see my alma mater partner with Ringling Bros., a company with not just a lengthy history of animal abuse but also a $270,000 USDA fine for cruelty.
I’m writing to ask that you cancel the planned Ringling Bros. AU alumni promotion on March 22 to promote Ringling Bros.’s sad spectacle at the Verizon Center. I was in AU’s class of 1985 and went on to become a senior vice president at PETA. You will also be hearing from many of our D.C.-area members and may well see them in person at your event should this promotion continue.
At Ringling Bros., elephants are beaten, hit, poked, prodded and jabbed with sharp hooks, sometimes until bloody. Alec Baldwin recently narrated this exposé, which shows how Ringling Bros. routinely beats the animals backstage to force them to perform the physically unnatural tricks during shows.
In late 2011, Ringling Bros. was fined $270,000 for various violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including several complaints stemming from elephant beatings and forcing at least one elephant to perform in shows despite being ill.
The USDA is currently investigating Ringling Bros. for abuse after an arena worker reported in a sworn affidavit that he witnessed a Ringling Bros. employee strike an elephant, who was chained, with a sharp metal-tipped bullhook “with full force” at least six times in a manner that was “violent,” “excessive,” “angry” and “without warning.”
The circus is known for going to great lengths to hide all signs of abuse and illness from authorities and the public, and it’s knowingly forcing two crippled, arthritic elephants to perform in shows now despite recommendations from an elephant expert to pull them from the road immediately. A Los Angeles Times editorial gives greater insight into modern public opinion about the circus’s needless use of animals.
I hope you will see that Ringling Bros. is not a company that AU wants to align with. Many schools, including Neumann University, have ended official partnerships with the circus and numerous public figures like Cloris Leachman, Pink and Jada Pinkett Smith have spoken out against Ringling Bros.’s abusive ways. Companies like MasterCard, Denny’s, Sears and dELiA*s have even dropped corporate sponsorships. I hope you will join them and end this promotion immediately.
Dan Mathews graduated in 1985 in from the College of Arts and Sciences and is the senior vice president of PETA.