A new videotape (below) has emerged of alleged abuse by a circus of elephants. This video by an undercover PETA activist shows Ringling Bros. employees beating elephants in ‘The Greatest Shows on Earth.” We have previously followed such lawsuits against the circuses, here.
The PETA activist used a hidden camera to take the video, which could raise some interesting legal issues not just for the circus but PETA itself.
The spokesman for Feld Entertainment (with the fortunate name of Payne), insisted that “PETA is an animal rights extremist group.”
Ringling was accused of elephant abuse by a former employee Tom Rider in 2003 and, in 1998, agreed to donate $20,000 to elephant-care groups to settle a case involving the death of a 3-year-old elephant in Jacksonville, Florida.
The use of such undercover agents creates a legal risk for PETA. In Food Lion v. ABC , a store was shown in an undercover segment engaging in unsanitary techniques and accused Food Lion of selling rat-gnawed cheese, meat that was past its expiration date and old fish and ham that had been washed in bleach to kill the smell. Food lion denied the allegations and sued ABC for trespass. A jury ruled against ABC and awarded Food Lion punitive damages for the investigation involving ABC journalists lying on their application forms and assumed positions under false pretenses. (here). The Fourth Circuit however wiped out the punitive damage award while upholding the verdicts of trespass and breach of loyalty with awards of only $1 for each. Ringling may seek to sue PETA not just for PETA but product disparagement and other tort-related claims. It could seek to expand on the Food Lion case.
In the meantime, PETA is filing against Ringling with federal and state authorities.
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