A decade-long legal battle is finally coming to a close after the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) agreed to pay the owners of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus $9.3 million for alleging the circus abused their elephants.
The lucrative settlement was announced on Friday, according to papers to filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., Courthouse News reports.
“Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg. “This settlement is a vindication not just for the company but also for the dedicated men and women who spend their lives working and caring for all the animals with Ringling Bros.”
The original allegation of mistreatment against the show's trained Asian elephants was filed in July of 2000, but was sullied by revelations that the key witness for the animal rights group was paid to testify, NBC News reports.
Former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider was responsible for caring for the elephants between 1997 and 1999. The circus won at trial in December 2009 when a judge ruled Rider's testimony was suspect, according to Bloomberg.
"The court finds that Mr. Rider is essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible, and therefore affords no weight to his testimony regarding the matters discussed herein, i.e., the allegations related to his standing to sue," U.S. District Judge Emmett G. Sullivan wrote in his 2009 opinion, according to CNN.
Despite the settlement of this case, The Atlantic Wire reports that questions about the treatment of elephants in circus-type shows continue to linger. The city of Los Angeles is considering prohibiting circuses with elephants, and the United Kingdom has already instituted such a ban.
A year-long Mother Jones investigation published in 2011 detailed the routine abuse of elephants in the name of entertainment.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released his own statement, vowing to continue to fight against Ringling Bros. elephant treatment, no matter what the courts rule.
"While HSUS was not a party to the original case against Ringling, we agree with so many critics of the circus that its treatment of elephants is deplorable and unacceptable. We'll continue to make our case to the public, even as Ringling files frivolous and retaliatory legal actions to divert and distract from its abuse of elephants," Pacelle said in a statement, according to CNN.