tags: humane society of the united states, HSUS, H$U$, Feld Entertainment, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, animal rights, animal welfare, lawsuit, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO
In the United States on New Year’s Eve, a judge dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by a consortium of animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The lawsuit alleged that Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, mistreated elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Now the Circus has turned around and filed a lawsuit against the HSUS, two HSUS lawyers, and a number of other animal rights organizations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
The original animal rights lawsuit was filed more than nine years ago, and was based on information provided by a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephant “barn helper” named Tom Rider. After Rider left his circus job, he was paid by animal rights groups to testify about the allegedly bad treatment of their elephants. In all, the original lawsuit’s plaintiffs paid Rider more than $190,000 — his sole source of income for eight years while the litigation made its way through the court system.
The Court frowned upon Rider being paid to act as a witness in this animal rights’ coalition lawsuit.
“The Court finds that Mr. Rider is essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible, and therefore affords no weight to his testimony,” said Judge Emmet Sullivan in his December ruling that accompanied his dismissal of the animal rights groups’ lawsuit [PDF]. “[T]he primary purpose [for the payments] is to keep Mr. Rider involved with the litigation.”
Judge Sullivan’s finding is now being used by Feld Entertainment to sue everyone who played a part in this collaborative “racketeering” scheme, including Rider as well as the nonprofit “Wildlife Advocacy Project” charity that the Washington, DC law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal allegedly used to launder money between their plaintiff clients and Rider. One of these clients putting up money to support Rider was the Fund for Animals, which merged with HSUS in 2004.
Feld Entertainment’s lawsuit alleges bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering charges against HSUS and two of its corporate attorneys, three other animal rights groups, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, and all three of that firm’s named partners. To quote David Martosko, who writes the blog, HumaneWatch.org;
America’s farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, research scientists, fashion designers, and restaurateurs have seen for decades how the animal rights movement can behave like a mobbed-up racket. But it’s still shocking to see the evidence laid out on paper. In a treble-damage lawsuit like this, a jury could actually do the humane thing and finally put HSUS out of business completely.
You can read the full text PDF of the 135-page lawsuit courtesy of HumaneWatch.