Big news broke on Friday, and it’s good news for circus fans. An animal rights group that was accused of taking part in a mob-like racket to attack Ringling Brothers circus promoters Feld Entertainment agreed to pay Feld nearly $10 million in a settlement to get Feld to drop the lawsuit. As any poker player will tell you, you’ve got to “know when to fold ‘em.” However, the so-called Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) still stands accused, and that organization and two of its staff attorneys are still facing millions of dollars in possible damages.
The case was supposed to be all about pachyderm training, but a key animal-rights witness soon became the elephant in the courtroom. A group later absorbed into the HSUS corporate empire, along with other animal rights groups, sued Feld for breaking environmental and animal treatment laws. But a district court found that that the lead witness for the animal rights groups was essentially paid for his testimony and was therefore not credible. The district judge and tossed the complaint against Feld and a court of appeals upheld the decision.
Based on the district court’s findings, Feld counter-sued. In July, a judge allowed the complaint to go forward and largely rejected defendants’ attempts to dismiss. So last week, one animal rights group settled to make the allegations go away. HSUS is still on the hook, and Feld has vowed to go forward to recover damages from the group and two of its attorneys who are named as defendants.
The editors of The Wall Street Journal are rightly pleased by the development, calling the original animal-rights lawsuit “abusive.” Since animal rights groups want elephants out of the circus (and bacon off your plate, and leather shoes off your feet, and dairy creamer out of your coffee), it’s reasonable to think these groups would abuse the legal system in pursuit of their fringe ideology. Remember PETA’s absurd contention that whales were slaves?
As our Executive Director told the media, this story shows just how far from the sad puppies and mewling kittens image HSUS and the animal rights movement actually are. HSUS doesn’t run any local pet shelters, but its legal team is embroiled in what looks like “something out of a mob drama.” Don’t want to support wannabe bacon-banners and alleged racketeers? Give to your local pet shelters, not HSUS.