a circus of justice
rights" extremists who argue that cows, pigs, rats and all other animals
are entitled to the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness as people have suffered a well-deserved courtroom defeat.
The latest stunt by these media-savvy activists to advance their movement
was the trumped-up prosecution of a genuine animal lover who has dedicated
his life to caring for elephants - trainer Mark Gebel of the Ringling
Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Justice and common sense prevailed when a jury in San Jose, Calif.,
found Mr. Gebel innocent on Dec. 21 of violating a unique California
law against elephant abuse. What was the heinous alleged crime? Mr.
Gebel was accused of poking an 8,000-pound elephant and causing a pinprick-size
cut. He didn't do it, and jurors believed him. The jury foreman said
that the case should never have been brought to court.
think that Mr. Gebel would abuse the elephants he loves makes as much
sense as thinking Roy Rogers abused his beloved horse Trigger, or that
classic TV shows like "Lassie" and "Flipper" taught children to hate
and abuse animals.
Mr. Gebel, 31, grew up in the circus as the son of famed wild animal
trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams. He devotes himself to feeding elephants,
caring for them, and helping them learn enjoyable behaviors.
The more you learn about the bizarre case against Mr. Gebel, the more
absurd it gets. It turns out that the two people who made the allegations
of animal abuse - a police officer and a Humane Society officer - never
even saw Mr. Gebel strike the elephant, because their view of him was
blocked by the animal.
Instead, the two women alleging abuse merely saw the elephant bolt forward
when Mr. Gebel was standing beside it. This led them to assume Gebel
hit the elephant.
top of that, the Humane Society officer admitted on cross-examination
that she didn't write a report about the alleged abuse until five days
later, and erroneously stated that Mr. Gebel was wearing a red costume
rather than the gold outfit he actually wore. And the police officer
admitted in court that she has been active in the "animal rights" movement
and attended a conference and workshop titled "New Tactics Banning Circuses."
Gebel's attorney, James McManis, told jurors: "The facts are, Mark Gebel
did not abuse this elephant, he did not discipline this animal, he did
not punish this animal."
Ringling Brothers veterinarian who examined the elephant found no evidence
the elephant was injured and offered the Humane Society officer filing
the complaint the opportunity to bring in another veterinarian of her
choice to examine the animal. The Humane Society officer refused and
demanded prosecution of Mr. Gebel.
understand this prosecution, you have to understand that the "animal
rights" fanatics pressing this frivolous case want to put circuses out
of business - along with every other industry that deals with animals.
The illogical logic of these radicals was best expressed in 1983 by
Ingrid Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
A newspaper quoted Newkirk as saying: "Six million Jews died in concentration
camps, but 6 billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter
houses." Tell that to someone who lost a relative in the Holocaust.
In the elephant case, "animal rights" extremists turned to the legal
system to get their way. But in other cases, zealots haven't hesitated
to break the law. They've burned down fast food restaurants, broken
into health research facilities that use animals to find cures for cancer
and other killer diseases, and attacked women wearing fur coats.
the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon didn't
slow down the Animal Liberation Front and similar terrorist groups.
Since September 11 they've burned down a primate research center in
New Mexico, fire-bombed a federal corral for wild horses in California,
turned 1,400 mink loose on an Iowa farm, and painted swastikas on a
Ronald McDonald House that serves seriously ill children and their families.
The most extreme "animal rights" crusaders even offer detailed arson
instructions on a web site.
Ringling Brothers is considered by many to put on the greatest circus
in the world. But the trial of Mark Gebel quickly became an even bigger
circus, with laughable charges of animal cruelty.
at stake here in the short run is the right of children and their families
to enjoy the rich and beautiful circus tradition we all grew up with
- seeing well-cared for elephants, tigers, zebras, horses and other
animals up close, and spending quality time together viewing wholesome
at stake in the long run is whether a radical and self-righteous fringe
group that wants to impose its own extreme code of conduct on all will
prevail against the will of the vast majority. We wouldn't stand for
this in Afghanistan. Why should we stand for it in America?
Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive