You may have missed our New Year’s Eve exposé covering the dismissal of a federal lawsuit pushed by a consortium of animal rights groups that included the deceptive Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The groups alleged that Feld Entertainment (the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) mistreated elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act, but in December a judge tossed out the lawsuit. Now the plot thickens: The circus is suing HSUS, two HSUS lawyers, and a number of other animal rights organizations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. (The lawsuit is exclusively available at HumaneWatch.org.)
The original animal rights lawsuit, filed more than nine years ago, was based on information provided by a former Ringling elephant “barn helper” named Tom Rider. After Rider left his circus job, he was paid by animal rights groups to testify about the supposedly “bad” treatment of elephants there. In all, the original lawsuit’s plaintiffs paid Rider more than $190,000—his sole source of income for years—while the litigation made its way through the court system.
Sound a bit like pay-for-play? As Judge Emmet Sullivan noted in his December ruling that dismissed the animal rights groups’ lawsuit: “The Court finds that Mr. Rider is essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible, and therefore affords no weight to his testimony…. [T]he primary purpose [for the payments] is to keep Mr. Rider involved with the litigation…”
Based on Judge Sullivan’s finding, Feld is suing everyone who played a part in this collaborative scheme (hence the “racketeering” aspect). This includes Rider and a nonprofit “Wildlife Advocacy Project” charity that the Washington, DC law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal allegedly used to launder money between their plaintiff clients and Rider.
One of these clients putting up dough to support Rider was the Fund for Animals, which merged with HSUS in 2004.
Feld is leveling bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering charges against HSUS and two of its corporate attorneys, three other animal rights groups, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, and all three of that firm’s named partners. It’s an earth-shattering lawsuit. Today we’re telling the media:
America’s farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, research scientists, fashion designers, and restaurateurs have seen for decades how the animal rights movement can behave like a mobbed-up racket. But it’s still shocking to see the evidence laid out on paper. In a treble-damage lawsuit like this, a jury could actually do the humane thing and finally put HSUS out of business completely.
You can read the full, 135-page lawsuit over at HumaneWatch. It’s worth more than a glance. If these allegations are proven true, HSUS employees might be finding themselves walking the same breadline they’ve tried to put so many others in.