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National Briefing / Washington, D.c.

Circus official defends prod use

March 04, 2009|Times Wire Reports

The head of the company that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus acknowledged in federal court that all of his elephant handlers strike the animals with metal-tipped prods, but he said it doesn't harm the pachyderms and is necessary to control them.

Feld Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Feld said the circus probably couldn't have elephants without the prods -- called bull hooks -- and chains that are at the center of the trial in U.S. District Court. He said the prods and restraints are needed to protect his staff and the public.

Animal rights groups are suing Feld Entertainment, saying the use of those instruments harms the company's 54 Asian elephants, an animal protected by the Endangered Species Act. The trial, being heard by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan without a jury, has been going on for a month and is expected to last a couple more weeks.

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