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June 17, 2004
PETA Adds Indictment To Injury

PETA has escalated its war on the Ringling Brothers circus, using the death of a high-wire artist to attack it even though the fall had nothing to do with the use of animals:

The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked the city of St. Paul to take legal action against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the case of an acrobat who fell to her death during a performance last month at Xcel Energy Center.

Dessi Espana, 32, was performing an aerial ballet move near the top of a 30-foot-long piece of silk chiffon hanging from a frame when the equipment securing the top of the fabric failed. She landed head first on the arena's concrete floor and later died.

Lisa Wathne, PETA's captive exotic specialist, sent a letter to City Attorney Manuel Cervantes on Wednesday, calling on him to investigate the death. She cited a state law that requires acrobats to perform with a safety net. Written in the late 1800s, the statute calls for a $250 fine if a safety net is not provided. A violation is a gross misdemeanor.

"Ringling has been cited repeatedly for failing to comply with the minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act," Wathne wrote, "so it comes as no surprise to PETA that the circus apparently disregards state laws intended to protect performers."

Refusing to use a safety net does amount to a petty midemeanor, which as Cervantes notes, hardly seems worthy of pursuing under the circumstances. I am always perpelexed by the insistence of some performers at eschewing the net. Some claim the net actually adds more danger than it subtracts, but most often the response is that it detracts from the drama of the event. It's that foolish attitude that inevitably, although infrequently, leads to injuries and death as in this case. (It's the same impulse, magnified and twisted, that accounts for the popularity of cage fights.) However, Espana herself chose to perform under those conditions.

Unfortunately, RB-B&B's opponents couldn't keep their glee hidden at this misfortune. Shame on PETA for using the death of a human performer to promote its animal-rights agenda. One has to wonder at the humanity of people like Wathne, who apparently greet the news of Espana's death as a delightful opportunity to grandstand. Failing to recognize that circus management may be grieving the loss of a colleague, PETA affirms its misanthropy by attempting to saddle them with a ridiculous criminal indictment.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2004 11:00 AM

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