After fourteen years of litigation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and related animal rights groups settled a legal battle that they started against the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus by agreeing to pay almost sixteen million dollars after a Federal Court determined that their case was “groundless and unreasonable.”
This unprecedented settlement—paid for with proceeds received from the many thousands of well-meaning contributors who believe that HSUS is an honorable animal welfare charity—was the final outcome of a lawsuit that HSUS brought against the circus over the care of its Asian elephants. The lawsuit was found “frivolous,” “vexatious,” and “groundless and unreasonable from its inception” by the U.S. District Court.
“We hope this settlement payment, and the various court decisions that found against these animal rights activists and their attorneys, will deter individuals and organizations from bringing frivolous litigation like this in the future,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. “This settlement is a significant milestone for our family-owned business and all the dedicated men and women who care for the Ringling Bros. herd of 42 Asian elephants. We look forward to continuing to set the standard for providing world-class care for all our animals and producing high quality, family entertainment.”
Will the settlement payment deter frivolous actions in the future as Mr. Feld hopes? Unfortunately, not all targets of animal rights activism possess the financial resources to defend and then prosecute these organizations for their excesses.
Just this week the state of Utah denied PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) permission to erect a roadside memorial for hundreds of turkeys that were killed in a tractor trailer accident last month. Activists plan to appeal the decision. PETA has filed for similar memorials in other states to promote their vegan doctrine: chickens in Georgia and cows in New York City. To date, none of the requests have been allowed.
Click for additional information on the HSUS settlement and the underlying litigation.
Posted May 16, 2014