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Wednesday, September 13, 2006 

North Brunswick, NJ. 5 miles. Grass. Overcast.

The shorest jump of the season.

Two Headlines with stories in the New Jersey Star-Ledger today The first under series of photos captioned Elephants The Stars of the Show reads: One Big Top, Three Rings of Fun. The second headline in another section of the paper reads: Prison For Animal Rights Activists.

A year ago I posited that things were nearing a tipping point insofar as PETA attacks on circus were concerned. Events in the last ten months suggest that the tipping point may be getting closer.

One big top, three rings of fun
St. Matthew church is the site in Edison

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

Tents mushroomed on the grounds of Saint Matthew the Apostle Church in Edison yesterday as the Carson and Barnes Circus came to town.

Hawkers sold hot dogs, snow cones, balloons and toys as young children and their parents streamed through the ticket booths to the three-ring circus.

Before they even got to their seats, audience members were treated to a real-life carousel with Shetland ponies and a petting zoo filled with a Noah's Ark of animals.

"They are old enough to eat my pants," Ben Trumble, circus spokesman, said about the baby goats.

A pygmy elephant lounged in a basin of water as children excitedly pointed at the beast and petted a zebra, the donkeys and the zebu, a small cow with a distinctive dusky hump.

In the circus big top, acrobats, trapeze artists and dancers whirled and jumped to the thumping beat of the sound system.

Antoly Huaman, 18, an acrobat, was getting ready for last night's performance. In the previous show, he landed on an elephant's back as he tried to make a somersault over the animal.

"It was embarrassing," he said, laughing.

Last night, he jumped from a ladder, took three big jumps on a trampoline, twisted himself across three elephants and landed on his feet to applause.

When the elephants were not in the big tent, they were taking people on short rides in their fenced enclosure.

Lisa Herendeen of Metuchen took her 4-year-old son Daniel on a ride atop Susie.

"It was a lot more bumpy than I thought it would be," Herendeen said. "He (Daniel) loved it. He laughed."

The 8,000-pound elephants have a serious sweet tooth. Kelly has a weakness for Oreo cookies. Susie has been known to take a sip from a soda can every now and then. Isa and Isla love cotton candy and doughnuts. But the treats are only used to entice them to perform tricks, said Randy Peterson, one of the trainers, who led Susie through the grounds with an ankus, a 2-foot-long stick with a small metal hook at the end.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argue that the ankus, or "bullhook," is used by the circus to abuse the elephants in their training and have set up a video on their Web site portraying a trainer attacking an elephant.

They sent a letter to Edison calling for the township to ban the use of bullhooks and other training methods on elephants, according to Lisa Wathne, PETA captive exotic animal specialist.

Trumble, the circus spokesman, argues that the video is heavily edited, the circus has never abused its animals and has a clean record with the Department of Agriculture.

As for the bullhooks, they are a guiding tool.

"It's like a shepherd's hook," he said.

The circus will perform again in North Brunswick today on Route 1 at the DeVry University campus.

Prison for animal rights activists
3 sentenced in organization's campaign to terrorize Somerset lab clients and employees
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff
Three animal rights activists who organized a campaign to harass employees and clients of a New Jersey research lab were sen tenced to prison yesterday by a judge who said their commitment to social justice had morphed into frightening and sometimes violent protests outside people's homes and offices.

"The means used, the harm im posed, almost arrogantly, is serious -- and warrants serious punishment," Senior U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson said.

She ordered Kevin Kjonaas, the onetime president of the U.S. chapter of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, to serve six years in prison. Co-defendants Lauren Gazzola of Connecticut and Jacob Conroy of California received terms of 52 and 48 months, respectively. Three more defendants face sentencings today and next week.

The hearings signaled the end of a case that had drawn attention from social activists and their tar gets, and represented a clash of ideals. Law enforcement officials portrayed the SHAC activists as domestic terror threats; supporters claimed the prosecution violated free-speech rights.

The protests began five years ago, when members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty began showing up each month at Huntingdon Life Sciences' lab in Franklin Township, Somerset County, where researchers use monkeys, dogs, fish and other animals to test drugs and other products.

Following tactics developed by their counterparts in Great Britain, where Huntingdon Life Sciences is based, the activists then turned their sights from the company to those who kept it afloat: its employees, clients, investors, suppliers and firms with which it did business.

They descended upon targets' neighborhoods at dawn with bullhorns, spray paint and posters, visited their churches and encouraged supporters to flood their phone or fax lines.

No one was seriously injured in the U.S. protests, but Huntingdon and others claimed millions of dol lars in lost business, vandalism and other damage.

Prosecutors portrayed the defendants as young activists who in cited the activity by posting the names and addresses of targets on line then trumpeted successful at tacks. Using a rarely used domestic terrorism statute, they charged them with conspiring to intimidate and stalk victims.

During a monthlong trial, dozens of victims testified about the impact of the protests on their families. Jurors heard some of the hundreds of phone conversations taped by the FBI and watched videotaped protests before returning guilty verdicts.

Under unusually heavy security, more than 100 people crammed the courtroom for yesterday's sentenc ing, with dozens more waiting outside. Most were supporters of the defendants. A few Huntingdon Life Sciences officials filled the front row, alongside representatives of pharmaceutical trade groups.

The judge noted the defendants weren't typical. Kjonaas was the son of a former mayor in Minnesota. Gazzola was preparing to enter law school when she was ar rested three years ago.

"All of these defendants were bright, educated and resourceful and talented," Thompson said.

Kjonaas faced as much as 10 years in prison, a stiffer term than a rapist or arsonist would face, according to his attorney, Robert Stahl. He asked the judge for a lighter term, saying that Kjonaas was part of a campaign for "an honorable cause" that went awry.

"This is not a crime of greed, avarice or malice," he said.

But the lead prosecutor, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna, said Kjonaas wasn't motivated by compassion as much as the "sheer power" he felt by bullying international corporations. He noted none of the defendants apologized.

"There is nothing noble about what Mr. Kjonaas did," he said. "There is nothing noble about in citing the kind of harm that Mr. Kjonaas reveled in."

Kjonaas declined to address the judge except to say it had been a traumatic and learning experience for him and his family. Asked later about appeal plans, he said, "I'm pretty confident I'm not going to do five years in prison. I'll be back."

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie called the punishments "appropriately long sentences."

Leslie Wiser, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark divi sion, said the group's "terror tac tics" backfired and "in the end they only served to drive themselves into a prison cell."

Mike Caulfield, general manager of Huntingdon's New Jersey facility, said there have been occasional protests, but nothing on the scale of attacks like several years ago. He was buoyed by the sen tences.

"On behalf of the dozens of victims who have had their lives turned upside down by these crimes, we're grateful that justice was served," he said.

SHAC supporters insisted their movement still thrives.

Andrea Lindsay, who described herself as a spokesperson for the defendants, said Huntingdon oppo nents had launched a new Web site and planned two more protests this week. She said hundreds if not thousands of people remained dedicated to shutting down the testing company.

"At the end of the day, it's six people," she said.

PETA people need to get a life !! I took my 1 1/2 yr son to your show, his very first and we had a blast ! We rode an elephant and just from looking at them and how they interact with people, they are not at all mistreated ! As with any animal - at times you need to be stern - even with domesticated ones (I have 2 dogs and 5 cats). Your circus is great and look forwar to seeing again next year. Your Big top show was amazing - Kudos to all of you!!

RSC - Somerset, NJ

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About me

  • I'm B.E.Trumble
  • From Everywhere, United States
  • Ben Trumble works in circus, carnival, and media relations
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