MFOA supports HSUS circus elephant ban bill

MFOA Testimony in Favor of LD 396 “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Elephants in Traveling Animal Acts”


Testimony of Robert Fisk, Jr.
President and Director, Maine Friends of Animals
Testimony in FAVOR of L.D. 396 “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Elephants in Traveling Animal Acts”
Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
March 2, 2017

Good afternoon Sen. Davis and Rep. Dunphy and distinguished members of the committee. My name is Robert Fisk, Jr. I am President and Director of Maine Friends of Animals, the state’s leading animal protection organization.

Maine Friends of Animals has a long and involved history with the issue of using elephants in circuses in this state. A brief legislative history of this issue I think would be useful to the committee, particularly as I believe Sen. Davis is the only member who was present in the legislative session I speak to. 

In 2000, animal advocates in Maine came together to mount a statewide campaign to support accompanying legislation in 2001 to ban circuses with elephants from performing in the state. The effort was inspired by the young 10-year old daughter, Reagan, of a legislator who sponsored the bill because of how she thought it was horrible how circus elephants had to live, and she gave captivating testimony before this committee to that affect.

The campaign culminated with the Maine House of Representatives voting in favor of the legislation by a wide margin of 88-58. It was the first time in the country any such legislation had passed in any state legislative body. Unfortunately, the circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, then hired lobbyists and the bill was defeated in the Senate.

We immediately set up another two-year campaign, hired our own lobbyist and, in 2003, won a rules and regulations resolution in the Legislature. Ultimately, it was a disappointing end to four years of work, but on the positive side, the campaign generated an unusual amount of newspaper stories, television coverage and public and legislative discussion.

I included in my testimony a few fact sheets and information from the 2001 legislation and if you look at it and the information submitted on behalf of LD 396 you will see they are very similar. Evidence as to how these very intelligent and social animals are trained, used, live and are disposed of. There has been no evidence since then to refute that information; and finally this fall not only did Ringley Brothers end using performing elephants, it closed months later all together as a business.

The plight of these great creatures has grown into a hot button issue in the animal protection movement for the last three decades; and after our legislation in 2001 and sixteen years later, the public and legislators now have a far greater understanding and knowledge of the issue; and the innate cruelty of captive wildlife being used as entertainment. It is obsolete, dramatically faded in popularity, and now most view it as an outdated and cruel business model, especially given today the successes of circuses without elephants and other captive wildlife.

Maine was a leader in 2001 in getting one house of the legislature to pass such legislation; now it is time for Maine to be a leader again and finally pass this legislation.

We strongly encourage the committee an ‘ought to pass’ vote on LD 396. If there are any questions from the members I will do my best to answer them.


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