Activists win legal victory just as the circus comes to town

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Activists have documented repeated abuses of elephants by their Ringling Bros. handlers.

Animal welfare advocates and other critics of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus just won an important free speech court victory against the city of Oakland just as they prepare to protest the circus starting its annual run there tomorrow.

The grassroots group Humanity Through Education announced that it has reached a $500,000 settlement with Oakland to a lawsuit that plaintiffs Pat Cuviello and Deniz Bolbol filed following their 2004 and 2005 arrests while trying to document abuses of elephants by circus employees.

The settlement includes an injunction allowing the activists to freely videotape the circus operations and to distribute literature critical of circus practices, which they will exercise starting tomorrow (Wed/8) at 6:30pm outside Oakland Arena, where Ringling Bros. begins a five-day run.

“Pictures of Ringling Bros. Circus training of baby elephants will be on display and behind-the-scenes video of Ringling elephant handlers beating the animals will be shown on a large screen. The Ringling elephant handlers videotaped beating the elephants are the same handlers working the elephants in Oakland this week,” the group said in a press statement.

To read more about how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants and its critics, read our 8/12/08 cover story "Dirty Secrets Under the Big Top."