By Erin Durkin
NYCLASS says that animals in circuses are beaten into submission for silly stunts: 'Animals in nature don’t naturally wear tutus and stand on their hind legs.' The proposed ban is aimed at the incoming Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which said it would cancel all city appearances if animals were banned.
The circus is coming to town — and some advocates want it to be for the last time.
NYCLASS, the animal rights group that’s been the key player in pushing for a ban on Central Park horse carriages, says it also wants the city to bar the use of animals in circuses — one item on an expanded agenda it plans to pursue this year.
“This is another example of the type of cruelty that has no place in New York City,” said Allie Feldman, the group’s executive director.
“Animals in the circus are horribly abused. Animals in nature don’t naturally wear tutus and stand on their hind legs. To get an elephant to do that, you have to basically beat the animal into submission,” she said.
The proposal is aimed squarely at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its famous elephants, which roll into town next week for a string of performances at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
If animals were banned, the circus would cancel all city appearances, said Stephen Payne, vice president of Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company.
“This is another attempt by an organization with a radical animal rights political agenda to tell people not just in New York but everywhere what they can and cannot see,” he said.
Payne said the circus has a team of veterinarians who make sure the animals are healthy, and is frequently inspected by local and federal officials.
“The animals are our first priority,” he said. “We are already highly regulated on the local, state, and federal level. ”
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez (D-Manhattan) has introduced bills to ban the use of “wild or exotic” animals in circuses in the last two sessions of the Council, but they have never come to a vote.
That legislation covers not only elephants but lions and tigers — as well as dolphins, kangaroos, giraffes and armadillos.
Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito both signed on to previous versions of the bill. A Mark-Viverito spokesman said she would have to review any new legislation and a de Blasio rep did not respond to a request for comment.
A ban on circus animals would probably not affect the Big Apple Circus because it uses only domestic animals like horses and dogs and retired its elephants years ago, according to communications director Joel Dien.
Several small cities around the country have banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Los Angeles, which considered an outright ban, instead recently banned the use of bullhooks on elephants.
Britain recently enacted a ban that will take effect in 2015.