Having friends in high places has always been an advantage that Feld Entertainment, owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, has enjoyed. Take Lisa Wallenda Picard, Ringling’s former director of public relations, who has held numerous high-ranking positions with federal agencies and recently took a vice president job with the National Turkey Federation.
She’s not the only former—or current—Feld lobbyist with connections to some of the highest levels of government:
- Brent Gattis was employed by the U.S. House of Representatives Agricultural Committee for nearly a decade before becoming a lobbyist for Ringling.
- Former U.S. Rep. Charles W. Stenholm is Ringling’s senior policy adviser.
- Ringling’s longtime government relations adviser, Joan Galvin, previously worked as a legislative assistant for two members of Congress.
Considering Ringling’s cozy relationship with government insiders, it comes as less of a surprise that three animal-abuse cases against the circus languished for years before they were quietly dropped by the USDA’s Office of the General Counsel. PETA recently met with the newly appointed USDA general counsel to request that she reopen the cases, which involve a lion named Clyde, who baked to death in a train boxcar as it traveled through the Mohave Desert; a baby elephant named Riccardo, who was killed after breaking both of his hind legs during a training session; and the severe beating of a chained baby elephant named Angelica. These matters are all being reconsidered for possible charges.
While Ringling hires well-connected lobbyists to put a positive spin on bullhooks, shackles, and whips, you can help end the cruelty by refusing to buy a ticket to the circus and persuading everyone you can not to go.
Written by Jennifer O’Connor