Circus protests planned this week in Greenport

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | A Cole Bros. elephant at the Greenport Polo Grounds in July 2011.

Local animal rights activists say they will protest the Cole Bros. Circus when it comes to Greenport later this week.

The circus has scheduled performances for Wednesday, July 24 and Thursday, July 25 at the Polo Grounds on Moores Lane. Supporters of the group In Defense of Animals (IDA) and other animal rights groups plan to stage protests both days.

“We oppose all circuses that use animals,” a spokesperson for IDA said. “Cole Bros, in particular, has an egregious history of Animal Welfare Act violations that led to federal charges and fines for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to emaciated elephants, and for failing to handle animals safely.”

On its website, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claims circus animals are treated cruelly by their trainers and suffer constant confinement in small cages while traveling, often without proper access to food or water.

Renee Storey, the vice president of administration at Cole Bros. Circus, said the company disputes the allegations made by animal rights groups.

“Their position springs from the point of view that any use of animal is unethical,” Ms. Storey said. “We disagree with their position. Ours is an animal welfare position — human beings interacting with animals as a benefit to everyone.”

Cole Bros. is currently touring through the New York City metropolitan area. When they aren’t on the road, Ms. Storey said, some of the circus elephants live at the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Okla.

On its website the circus, founded by W.W. Cole in 1884 and currently based in Florida, says it features royal Bengal tigers and both baby and adult elephants in its acts.

Cutchogue resident Marilyn Flynn, a member of PETA for more than 20 years, said she will take part in the protests and called it “alien” for circus elephants to be confined to small living spaces.

“Elephants walk for miles every day in the wild,” she said. “Next year I hope Greenport hires a circus that doesn’t use animals.”

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