This very evening, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus (owned by Feld Entertainment, Inc.) will begin a one-week residency at Staples Center (owned by secretive billionaire and City Council pet Philip Anschutz).
But PETA isn't letting these carneys come through without a facefull of red paint:
Today at 5:45 p.m., animal-rights activists are looking to recreate "The Greatest Circus Protest on Earth," the demonstration they held at Staples around this time last year. Pet Pardons writes on Facebook that over 500 angry elephant lovers were in attendance -- and "we can make the protests even bigger this year!"
Protesters have been known to come in full frowny-faced Eeyore getup, bearing signs with messages like "Visit the circus if you support cruelty."
The website RinglingBeatsAnimals.com features photos and videos showing baby circus elephants bound with ropes, and adults being "whipped, beaten, and yanked by heavy, sharp steel-tipped bullhooks behind the scenes, prior to performing." Also, this video of PETA spokesman Alec Baldwin, urging his fellow man to boycott elephant abuse (in his most irresistible narrator's whisper):
Baldwin may be onto something. In a telling settlement with the federal government last year, Ringling's parent company was forced to pay over a quarter-million for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Which brings us back to Elephant Awareness Day.
The legislation (if you can even call it that) was passed to appease local activists who feel the Los Angeles Zoo has not provided adequate roaming space for its elephants. But Elephant Awareness Day did about as much for animal rights as the council's Responsible Banking Ordinance did for the 99 percent:
Instead of setting any city standards for the treatment of elephants, the council passed a spineless resolution whose sole purpose was to "increase awareness of the inherent self-worth and important contributions of elephants worldwide."
Lulz. As Jon Regardie of the L.A. Downtown News wrote in his awesome analysis of the political circus at City Hall:
At a time of annual budget deficits north of $200 million, the fact that even a dime of city resources is going to make Angelenos aware of elephants is mindboggling. I'm not sure if the price will ultimately rise as high as an elephant's eye, but the council spent nearly 20 minutes on the matter, including a) recognizing a young animal rights activist, and b) Councilman Mitch Englander reading part of a poem about elephants (sample: "they don't take more than they can eat/and always watch where they put their feet"). Someone already earned taxpayer money for writing the resolution. Then there are the unknown costs of raising all this awareness.
The matter is, well, bizarre. Does [Councilman Tony Cardenas] think that 18% of Angelenos are unaware of the great animal known as "elephant." One co-worker and I debated whether Cardenas could have lost a bet with another council member, and that as a result he had to try to pass the most perplexing resolution possible. Another colleague asked which elephant we should be aware of? Horton, perhaps? Or is it the one who Bill Murray inherits from his circus clown father in the 1996 film Larger Than Life?
One thing's for sure. Councilmembers remain blissfully unaware of their own restless elephants at the L.A. Zoo -- as well as the allegedly black-and-blue Ringling elephants who'll perform for gleeful kiddies at Staples Center tonight.
Udate: We neglected to note that, of course, Feld Entertainment has consistently denied the accusation of abuse. Quite cleverly, Feld even finds a way to turn today's controversy into one more reason to come out to Staples:
A spokesman for the company tells the Los Angeles Times that "if people come to the circus, they can see first-hand how the animals are doing well in our care." We see what you did there.