Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus, has some advice for beef producers on the topic of animal rights.

“I don’t believe in turning the other cheek in a debate like this. You just get slapped twice,” he says.

Payne contacted me after having read my article on carriage driver Tommy Doyle and his family’s Palmetto Carriage Works of Charleston, SC, in the June 7 issue of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly. That article detailed the challenges and the approach of the Doyle family in working with livestock in the heart of an urban area.

Payne reports that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey operation faces a similar challenge, in that it serves more than 10 million people annually and is under constant scrutiny – harassment really – from animal rights activists. Payne says Feld Entertainment, like the Doyle family, takes a firmly proactive stance when it comes to animal welfare. And, like the Doyles, he believes industries that rely on animals for their livelihoods must stick and work together.

A $9.3-million settlement from ASPCA

You likely heard about the $9.3-million legal settlement to Feld Entertainment agreed upon last December by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). It was to settle all claims related to ASPCA’s part in a decade of litigation that attempted to outlaw elephants in the Ringling Bros. Circus.


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The suit against Feld Entertainment, first initiated in 2000, eventually grew to involve The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), The Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Protection Institute united with Born Free USA, and a former Ringling Bros. employee named Tom Rider. The suit challenged Feld Entertainment for its handling of endangered Asian elephants under the Endangered Species Act, but it was thrown out of court twice, the second time in 2009. That’s when Feld Entertainment sued its adversaries citing violations of the racketeering RICO Actto recover more than $20 million in lawsuit-related costs.

The family-owned company was able to prove that the animal rights groups had paid Rider almost $200,000 for his involvement in the case. ASPCA eventually cried “uncle” and agreed to pay its portion of the damages, but Feld Entertainment says it will continue to press its case against HSUS and the other parties. Learn more at

ringling bros circus fights animal extremists