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California

PETA urges L.A. to ban all wild animals from circus performances

Circus protest
Led by three costumed tigers, dozens of animal rights protesters with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gather at Los Angeles City Hall Thursday to urge the city to prohibit using tigers, lions and other wild animals in circuses.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Two years after Los Angeles banned circuses from using bullhooks to manage elephants, animal rights activists called on city leaders Thursday to go farther and prohibit traveling shows from using any wild animals in their performances.

About 30 protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including three wearing tiger costumes, demonstrated on the steps of City Hall.

They were targeting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which said it would retire its elephants after several cities across the country passed ordinances similar to the one in Los Angeles.

Ringling Bros. has continued to use other wild animals in its circus acts, including lions and tigers.

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Lisa Lange, senior vice president of PETA, said the City Council’s decision in 2014 set the stage for accountability among entertainment companies like circuses.

“It really was as a result of [the bullhook ban] that Ringling Bros. announced that they are no longer going to tour with elephants,” she said. “We want [the use of wild animals in circuses] to end in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, and we think this is the City Council to make that happen.”

Councilman Paul Koretz supports PETA’s stance, said Jeffrey Ebenstein, Koretz’s legislative deputy.

“Before it was popular, [Koretz] kind of started the trend of animal rights in West Hollywood,” he said. “The circus was always on his radar. What we’ve come to realize is that many of the practices are outdated and cruel and need to stop.”

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Stephen Payne, a spokesman for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said the circus animals are not mistreated.

“PETA gets a lot of misinformation out there, and they promote that,” he said. “We’ve been taking care of our elephants for over 100 years. We’ve made a commitment to take care of them for the rest of their lives.”

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will stage performances at Staples Center later this month that include lions, tigers, a leopard, horses, dogs, pigs, llamas and a kangaroo. There are approximately 80 animals in the show, Payne said.

“Whips are only used for theatrical purposes, not to hurt the animal,” he said, “PETA is entitled to its own opinion. We know how to care for these animals.”

alexia.fernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @alexiafedz

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