Bob Barker Fighting For New Bill To Stop 'Heartbreaking' Treatment Of Circus Animals
WASHINGTON -- Bob Barker doesn't think "The Greatest Show On Earth" is great for animals, and he made his case Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
The former host of America's longest running game show, "The Price Is Right," along with "CSI" star Jorja Fox, helped to unveil the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that if passed would prohibit the use of exotic animals in traveling shows.
"I'd like to see Ringling Brothers closed," Barker told The Huffington Post after a press conference. "It's all animal exploitation. It's heartbreaking."
At 87, Barker is one of Hollywood's most experienced and vocal animal rights activists. Fox, who stars in the most popular drama on television, has also made animal rights a primary focus.
"Our kids look to us for what is right," Fox said at the press conference. "These animals do deserve our kindness and they do deserve our respect." The former "ER" actor also described "overwhelming evidence" that she said proved the inhumane treatment of traveling exotic animals -- ranging from the use of bullhooks to tasers.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), would restrict the use of exotic and wild animals such as elephants, tigers and lions in traveling shows if the animals were moved in mobile housing units within 15 days of a performance -- virtually removing these animals from shows like the well-known Ringling Brothers' "Greatest Show on Earth" circus. The bill would not affect stationary animal exhibits such as zoos, aquariums, rodeos or research laboratories.
"There are, of course, plenty of significant pressing economic issues facing our country right now that do also demand action," Moran said on the House floor, "but that doesn't also mean we can't also find time to focus public attention on examples of fundamental animal mistreatment."
Mel Richardson, an exotic animal veterinarian for Animal Defenders International, described treating animals who suffered from broken teeth due to constant gnawing on their cages as well as animals whose feet get infected from standing in their own excrement for extended periods of time.
"There is no way you can provide the physical, psychological, social well-being of any wild animal in a traveling situation. You cannot do it," Richardson said at the press conference.
Ed Stewart, co-founder of the the Performing Animals Welfare Society, called for the United States to join the ranks of countries that have passed similar legislation, such as Austria, Bolivia and Peru.
"It's a horrible thing to put animals through," Stewart said. "I think it's time that we join a lot of the countries and say 'No, we're never going to do this again.'"
Barker echoed Stewart's remarks saying, "It's time for the United States to join this parade of nations that is doing the right thing. We all have problems, but we have good days. These animals don't have good days. The day they die is probably the best day of their lives."
President of ADI Jan Creamer told HuffPost that the roughly 300 exotic traveling animals that would be freed if the bill were passed would be easily relocated to sanctuaries.
"[Animal relocation] is something that's been done all over the world and  is certainly a number that can be reasonably dealt with," Creamer said. "It's important to see now is the time to end this."
Moran concluded by calling the proposed legislation the "first step" in providing legal protection to exotic circus animals.
"I'm not extraordinarily optimistic that it's going to get passed in this particular Congress," Moran told HuffPost. "We will develop political mobilization which will force Congress to respond. ...It will happen as soon as the American public decides this is something they care enough about to insist that it does happen."
Of course, the press conference's final words were reserved for reminding audience members of another way to protect animals, with Barker repeating what he used to say at the end of each show, asking audience members to kindly spay and neuter their pets.
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to state that animals suffer from broken teeth, not feet, due to gnawing on their cages.