Ms. McWethy explains, " It was two years ago in July 2009. It was released by PETA and what we saw was a concern and so after really taking a look at this video and while Ringling Brothers did believe there was some editing to that - we could not get the raw footage from PETA - but we were able to take a look at it and went back to some of the handlers in that video and said basically what was going on and we found that the handling practices that they were using were sloppy."
She further stated that they were sure that the elephants had not been harmed as they went over the six months of videotape and compared them to the veterinary records at the time which, according to Ringling, documented that the elephants were in good health and did not exhibit any marks that would suggest injury.
"That said, again we recognized that with those particular handlers that was sloppy handling and they were disciplined for their actions." She confirmed that those same handlers maintain a working relationship with Ringling.
"It [criticism] won't go away and we understand that and I think that we all feel that everyone has a right to their opinion but there are two sides and we very much want to be able to get out how we care for the animals, how we treat them and honestly I've been with this company for six years and I think that the animals probably have the best health care program that most people do in the United States, which is amazing to me."
When discussing how some towns, most notably several in Massachusetts, have passed local ordinances banning wild animal acts and thus prohibiting Ringling Bros. Circus, Ms. McWethy said they were aware and have participated in many of the educational hearings.
She added, "We are licensed by the USDA and that is a federal license that we have. Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey have to apply every year and as a result of having that license we're open to inspection. I can tell you that Ringling Bros has never been found in violation of the Animal Welfare Act which basically governs all animal welfare guidelines for all licensed exhibitors."
Marianne Bessey is not impressed. "The laws in this country do very little to protect the animals. There is the Animal Welfare Act that is under the responsibility of the USDA. The USDA actually does the bare minimum to enforce it."
"Ringling," says Bessey, pointing to the video below, "is in violation of the Animal Welfare Act every day of the year. The USDA just does not enforce it."
One of the signs frequently carried by protesters reads, "This is Ringling Baby Elephant Training." The accompanying image is of a calf being trained to lie down.
It was that sign that protester, Jason Treger, was carrying when one father stormed out of a BMW and charged at him.
Unidentified man confronts protester
Lt. Dennis Konczyk of the Philadelphia Police Department Civil Affairs Unit moved quickly to separate the two men. Konczyk denied Treger's request to press charges after a "chest bump" stating that he perceived the physical contact to be mutual.
In describing the incident to Opednews, Konczyk said the patron had done a "noble thing" as he believed the man was protecting the woman inside the car. He quickly added that that was his "personal opinion and not a police opinion," dismissing the idea that his opinion would impact his official duties. He conceded that the protesters were functioning within the law and did not pose a threat to the patrons.
Ed Coffin heads back to the sidewalk after speaking to Lt. Koczynk