Reported by: Jerry Hume
Last Update: 1/27 5:27 pm
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - They're the stars of the circus. And Friday three Asian elephants because the three biggest lobbyists in Tallahassee.
Trainers from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus showed off their four ton performers to a group of legislative aides, state agency employees and even state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda.
"I wanted to see how they're taken care of, I wanted to see their relationship between the trainers and the elephants," said Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee).
The circus has been under heavy fire for years by animal rights groups, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, for the circus' treatment of elephants.
Video on PETA's website, claiming to be from the circus, shows poking, prodding and cramp quarters.
"When these animals are not under the bright light in the big top, they are kept in heavy chains, barely able to take a single step and forced to stand for days on hard surfaces," said PETA Celebrity Spokesperson Cloris Leachman.
Ringling denies any animal abuse.
Trainers say the elephants are not just another animal, they're a part of their family.
"The care that we give these animals is of our upmost importance and these animals are treated better in our care than they are in the wildlife," said David Shepp, a governmental consultant for Ringling Brothers.
Ringling says the elephants are trained through reward and repetition. When they retire, they live at a 200 acre conservation center in Central Florida.
So after looking at the circus animals Friday, Rehwinkel Vasilinda is satisfied.
"As far as captivity, I think the elephants here look happy, we had a good time today," she said.