This article was published by the Daily Free Press on Monday, December 12, 2011 (http://dailyfreepress.com/2011/12/12/animal-rights-advocates-criticize-trustee%E2%80%99s-company/)
While Boston University officials call Kenneth Feld a leading alumnus and Trustee, student activists said the circus owner is better known for his company’s alleged history of animal rights violations.
“We often talk about Feld in our meetings,” said College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Rachel Atcheson, a member of the BU Vegetarian Society. “[Feld Entertainment Inc.’s elephants] are not supposed to be performance animals. In the facilities they’re running, they want to make money.”
Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, paid $270,000 in a Nov. 23 settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, involving alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act, dating from June 2007 through August 2011, according to a USDA press release.
Feld Entertainment agreed to establish a training program for all employees as well, the first of which will be held on March 31.
Ringing Brothers failed to comply with areas of the Animal Welfare Act, including proper enclosures for animals, proper veterinary care, careful handling of animals and performance rests for sick animals, according to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reports. Inspectors were also denied access to records and property on Nov. 18, 2011, the report said.
BU spokesman Colin Riley said it is important to note that all of the charges are alleged.
“In the Feld Entertainment news release, you’ll see that they do ‘not admit wrongdoing or any violation of USDA regulations,’” Riley said in an email interview.
Riley said Feld is a leader “in word and deed” as an alumnus and a trustee.
The Feld Family Foundation donated a $10 million endowment to BU in 2009 for professorships and other projects. He has also instituted the Feld Family Career Center at the School of Management and the Feld Family Skating Center at Agganis Arena.
“The family’s philanthropic initiative provides a shining example for alumni and friends of the university to emulate. We truly appreciate their leadership and support,” said President Robert Brown after announcing Feld’s gift, according to a Feld Entertainment press release.
Feld did not return several attempts to reach him for comment.
Steve Payne, vice president of Corporate Communications of Feld Entertainment, said some of the issues in the non-compliance report have been corrected and that not all of their reports necessarily deal with animal treatment.
“It may be something as simple as windows that need cleaning, repairs that need to be made,” Payne said. “In all of these instances, we work with USDA. We may not always agree with these report [findings].”
Payne did not comment on all the USDA’s reports involving veterinary care and the handling of animals, but he did refer to one report involving a 35-year-old elephant named Banko.
The report, filed in June, stated that Banko was made to perform on the same day she experienced diarrhea and discomfort that required medical attention.
Payne said Feld Entertainment and the USDA have a “difference in opinion” about how to care for the elephant. He said their priority was to make sure Banko would remain with the other elephants and she would only perform with the approval of a veterinarian.
PETA and other animal rights organizations have criticized Ringling Brothers’ treatment of animals. In October, BU’s Vegetarian Society picketed against the circus at the TD Banknorth Garden, according to an Oct. 17 article in The Daily Free Press.