Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts in the U.S., had great love and respect for animals. Thus, it would seem against our founder's beliefs that our local council would support a circus which repeatedly engages in animal cruelty. We are asking the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana council to end their relationship with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
A year-long investigation by Mother Jones magazine found that Ringling elephants spend most of their lives "either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook... They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity."
Unfortunately, the mistreatment of elephants by Ringling isn't limited to what goes on under the big top. Personnel at its "Center for Elephant Conservation" - the place that our council's girls learn about as part of the "Elephant Pride" project - use a "routine separation process" whereby still-nursing baby elephants are forced away from their mothers to begin their circus training. This is accomplished by tying ropes around the baby elephant's legs, an act which can result in "trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and unnecessary discomfort," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In November of 2011, the USDA fined Feld Entertainment (Ringling's corporate parent) $270,000 for Animal Welfare Act violations, the largest fine against an exhibitor in the AWA's forty-year history. Kenneth Feld himself admitted under oath that his trainers routinely "correct" elephants by hitting them with bullhooks, whipping them, and occasionally using electric prods. In its investigation, Mother Jones found that the USDA has conducted over a dozen investigations of Feld Entertainment but unfortunately, due to the government agency's limited budget, regulators have not been able to act on their findings of abuse. Perhaps this is where we as Girl Scouts can help in some small way.
This petition is only one part of our Bronze Award project to educate others about the exploitation of circus animals, but it is an important one. We are ten- and eleven-year-old girls who, along with our troop leader, have discovered about ourselves that we care deeply about the mistreatment of circus animals and as a result, want to connect with others to take action on this very important issue. As second-graders, we ourselves attended a Ringling Bros. show. Now that we have grown and learned about animals in the circus, that Ringling Bros. badge on our Brownie vest is no longer something to remember with fondness or be proud of. We believe that our founder, "Daisy" Low, would approve of our efforts here, and if you do, too, please sign our petition today.
Ruth Perkins, Leader, and the Girls of Junior Scout Troop #88