By Hollie McKay
LOS ANGELES – Actress Olivia Munn has joined the movement to help an elephant named Nosey.
Munn wrote a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), exclusively obtained by FOX411, in which “The Newsroom” star chastises the agency for being aware of Nosey’s alleged suffering and refusing to take action.
The plight of the 32-year-old elephant, adopted by Hugo “Tommy” Liebel after her family was killed by ivory poachers in Africa, has been subject to the media spotlight for several years now amid complaints she is forced to entertain circus-goers across the country despite severe arthritis and injuries.
PETA also claims that she is being mistreated and tortured during her training process.
Liebel, who hung up the phone on us when asked for a response to the accusations, has in the past vehemently refuted PETA’s allegations of wrongdoing, and insisted that the animal rights organization is simply attacking his industry.
But Munn, a prominent critic of circuses that employ animals, isn’t buying the defense and is calling for the USDA to confiscate Nosey from her owner and permanently revoke his exhibitor’s license.
“Anyone can see that Nosey is suffering from lameness, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allowing her exhibitor, Hugo Liebel, to force her to work, even though she's in pain. As an elephant lover, I'm troubled that the USDA is allowing this abuse to continue and has failed to ensure that this lame elephant is never forced to perform again,” Munn writes in the letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Nosey is showing signs of crippling arthritis, which is one of the main reasons why captive elephants are euthanized.”
Munn notes that the USDA has the power to make sure the condition is not a death sentence for Nosey.
“If she is placed in a reputable sanctuary, where she would have acres of soft earth on which to roam free, pools to wade in to ease the pain in her joints, and access to expert veterinary care, Nosey could have many happy years ahead,” Munn continues, adding that a recent meeting between PETA reps and the USDA failed to yield any resolution. “Nosey is suffering on your watch. With all the evidence that you have—video footage, appeals from a veterinarian with decades of experience with elephants, and the knowledge that joint problems can be fatal in elephants—it's time to act.”
According to PETA, Nosey also tested positive for exposure to tuberculosis in 2012, which can be transmitted to humans. The USDA investigated the matter following a complaint in 2011, but did not prosecute.
The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only statute specifically intended to protect animals used for exhibition, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with enforcing it. A representative for the USDA said that they are aware of PETA’s recent complaint on Nosey’s condition and understand the concern and public support, but as it stands there is no open investigation.
“While USDA does have the ability to confiscate, we can only do so if the animal is suffering and action is not taken to alleviate the condition or the animal is placed in an environment that directly places it in imminent danger of suffering or death,” explained the USDA rep. “At that point we can obtain a confiscation order to confiscate the animal. In the instance of Nosey, the owner is working with USDA to obtain an expert evaluation. Arthritis is also not a condition that would normally require confiscation. While we understand that there are people concerned over Nosey performing with arthritis, there is no regulation that states she cannot perform as long as it is not restricted by her veterinarian.”
Earlier this week, veterinarian Dr. Philip Ensley, who does not treat Nosey, sent a letter to the USDA, referring to Nosey’s case as “the worst, most prolonged” case of elephant suffering and abuse he has ever seen. PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders insists, contrary to the USDA’s claims, that “Nosey is not just in danger of suffering, she is suffering.”
“The USDA's own records show that Nosey has been exploited, mistreated, and neglected her entire life,” Munn writes. “It's time to step up and do the right thing for this animal by revoking Liebel's license, seizing Nosey, and sending her to a sanctuary. Her life depends on it.” Video.