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The Real Clowns Won

After 14 years of litigation, Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, has won and finally been paid for damages from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with their co-defendants, over the care of its Asian elephants.

In December 2012, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a former co-defendant in the case, settled its share of the lawsuits by paying Feld Entertainment $9.3 million. As of today, the total settlement recovered by Feld Entertainment is more than $25 million, which is about what Feld Entertainment has spent on legal fees and expenses defending the Endangered Species Act (ESA) case.

In the original ESA lawsuit, Feld Entertainment discovered the animal rights groups and their lawyers had paid over $190,000 to a former circus employee to be a “paid plaintiff.”  The court also found that the animal rights groups and their attorneys “sought to conceal the nature, extent and purpose of the payments” during the litigation. The court also said, “Their abuse of the judicial system included the issuance of a false statement under oath by the former employee assisted by his council, who was the same attorney who was paying him to participate in the litigation.” The court also found that the animal rights lawsuit was “frivolous and vexatious.” 

After finally winning the case in their favor, Feld Entertainment has been vindicated. The case was a huge abuse of the justice system in which the animal rights groups and their lawyers apparently believed the ends justified the means. It also marks the first time in U.S. history where a defendant in an ESA case was found entitled to recover attorneys’ fees against the plaintiff.  

HSUS and animal rights groups – the Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA, the Wildlife Advocacy Project, a law firm and several current and former attorneys of the firm – paid the settlement for their involvement in the case brought under the ESA. Hopefully this will slow them up a little, but they do have deep pockets.  

“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 chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment.

We hope so, too.

We have seen these animal rights groups get away with actions like this in many pork producing areas, livestock auction barns and a lot of other places where animals are raised, sold or used. It is what’s brought on the many state’s laws to protect the owners or handlers of livestock. It is not going to stop, most likely, but we need to be aware when handling livestock. It’s a sign of the times.

It is Father’s Day this weekend. Remember those who have passed on and those who are with us. Give them a pat on the back or hug and give them a big thank you. Someone once said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.”