Ladies and gentlemen, step right up! After last week’s bizarre barbecuing of a PETA activist in Phoenix, the animal cult’s latest spectacle kicks off today in Washington, DC. In a familiar case of supposed elephant "advocacy," five animal rights groups will try their luck in Federal District Court. Their mission? Convincing Judge Emmet G. Sullivan that they know more about the welfare of circus elephants than the professional trainers in The Greatest Show on Earth.

For almost nine years, a cabal of animal rights groups has been devoting a substantial amount of its time, energy, and massive fortunes to bringing down the Big Top. The reason is a poorly kept secret: The animal rights movement wants to stop any human interaction with animals whatsoever — whether for food, sight, education, medicine, or companionship. Or preserving a tradition that millions of people have cherished for centuries.

Unfortunately for activists and other Ringling Brothers circus haters, nine years is a lot of time to keep some very damaging information under wraps. At least two ringleaders of this twisted exercise in children’s entertainment-busting, plaintiffs’ lawyer Kathy Meyer and lead witness Tom Rider, have come off appearing crooked or crazy.

Consider what Meyer told another judge back in 2003, when she represented the same bevy of clients she’s repping today (plus PETA). At the time, Meyer was seeking an injunction against the San Diego Zoo, whose conservationists wanted to import orphaned elephants from Africa:

If the elephants are euthanized in Swaziland … that would be a better outcome than to have these elephants put in crates, put on airplanes, brought over here, trained with bull hooks, put in cages, and live the rest of their lives in captivity. Thats right, Your Honor.

You read that right: Killing elephants would be a better outcome than sending them Stateside to keep them alive.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in this case is the racketeering ( RICO ) counter-suit filed against the activists, their lawyers, and their star witness by the Ringling circus. It accuses attorney Meyer and her law firm of using a wildlife advocacy charity to pay Tom Rider for his court testimony against the circus.

Damning stuff if it turns out to be true, since most of the activists’ case hinges on Riders testimony. This is what legal experts at The National Law Journal are saying about the latest stage of this nearly decade-long battle:

If Ringling Bros. loses its bench trial — expected to take about a month — many supporters on both sides believe it could spell the beginning of the end for the use of elephants in circuses or any other kind of entertainment.

Sadly, it has come to this. You may want to take your kids to the circus and show them an elephant before Tom Rider, Kathy Meyer, and the animal rights movement make sure the only place they’ll see one is in a book or on the Internet.