A small but sturdy herd of PETA activists is stomping its feet against the circus' stay in Denver.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supporters took their grievances against Ringing Bros. & Barnum & Bailey's treatment of its elephants to the front of the coliseum this afternoon in hopes that their protest will stay at the forefront of people's minds -- and keep them from buying a ticket.
The greatest show on Earth marks its opening night tonight at 7, and although its opponents' afternoon protest ended at 1 p.m., they'll be back from 5:30 to 7 p.m. tonight. In fact, they'll be back every night the circus is here, with shifts planned daily until its final show October 9.
"PETA is protesting the routine physical and psychological abuse against elephants associated with Ringling that has been happening since their inception," say PETA assistant campaigner Matt Bruce, one of a handful of activists forming a group organized to protest every stop on the circus' tour.
The nineteen-strong group received a generous amount of supportive honks and nods from passing cars at its busy stop on 44th Street across from the Denver Coliseum. Carrying homemade and mass-produced signs alike, the volunteers drew attention to photos PETA publicizes on its anti-Ringling sister site, the aptly named ringlingbeatsanimals.com, to show evidence of abuse against elephants at the hands of the circus company. (Note: Only click on that link if you have a strong stomach. Seriously.)
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Bruce, who drops mentions of pokers and bull hooks casually during his conversation, cites one elephant as a particular focus among the eleven in this touring unit. "Sarah is coming here tonight, and she collapsed in Anaheim about a month ago as a result of Ringling's treatment," Bruce says. "She's forced to perform every night despite suffering from a potentially life-threatening arthritis and a raging infection in her vulva that is oozing pus."
Ouch. The group, organized primarily through e-mail and PETA's website, has scheduled sixteen remaining protest times in addition to tonight's.
A representative from Ringling has not yet been reached for comment. If and when we hear back, we'll update this post.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "PETA, out to pluck Denver, files appeal on McCruelty."