I-95 drivers near the Walt Whitman Bridge are being treated to a billboard that appears to show a baby elephant in restraints being poked by guys with hooks.
The ad is the work of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is targeting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The elephants are coming to the Wachovia Center from Feb. 24 to 28.
PETA says the photo was taken by a longtime circus worker who, shortly before his death, came forward to allege that Ringling routinely mistreated elephants at its center in Polk County, Fla. PETA lays out the allegations at www.ringlingbeatsanimals.com.
PETA objects to any use of animals in entertainment, while Ringling touts its breeding and housing of Asian elephants as a means to keep the endangered species alive; it also says only one-third of its elephants actually perform.
Janice Aria, director of animal stewardship at the Ringling facility and a 38-year employee, called the photo "taken out of context" and said that a snapshot of human training methods -- such as the tethering of young gymnasts -- might also seem extreme.
The Washington Post covered the allegations a couple of months ago. Here's the story.