Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus paraded endangered Asian elephants through Los Angeles streets while fools born every minute watched.
People were foolish -- or perhaps naïve -- because all the Asian elephants have been exposed to -- or have had full blown mycobacterium-tuberculosis.
Several of them have fought hard to live and several have taken one or all three of the same drugs humans take to try and cure this deadly communicable disease.
The circus is a tuberculosis Petri-dish because it's impossible to tell when a 10,000 pound animal is cured.
According to health records -- a Federal judge ordered Ringling to release -- few of his elephants have managed to avoid exposure to tuberculosis, and most have taken a hard and sometimes deadly regiment of drugs to try and cure it.
But, there is no X-ray machine in the world big enough to produce evidence the animals is cured.
According to L.A's head of the health department, Patrick Ryan,
"Once these animals have been exposed to M-tuberculosis -- the same disease humans catch -- they (the elephants) should never be allowed to be around the public again."
Instead of lining the road to see the animals, people,
"Should be given a disclaimer when they come into the arena explaining they could be exposed to a deadly contagious disease."
World renowned epidemiologist, Don Francis who fought hard to get the world to take HIV seriously, and was the first head of the Centers for Disease Control AIDS Division goes on to say, "Potential drug resistance is a distressing problem,"
"When humans give tuberculosis to the Asian elephants and the elephants become drug resistant and go back out into the public, the elephants could then not only infect others with TB, but with a drug resistant form of TB."
Every animal on the blue unit now performing in Los Angeles, then heading to San Diego and on to the San Francisco Bay area has either tested positive for tuberculosis, or has had a full blown case of M-TB.
With no way of looking at an elephants lungs until after death, there is no way to tell if they are cured. The test veterinarians give -- a trunk washing -- is notoriously unreliable.
At least two Ringling elephants have died after giving negative trunk washings for M-TB and during necropsies, tuberculosis- lesions were found on their lungs -- they were contagious the entire time they traveled the country and the world.
Every few days I get a Google alert on elephants and tuberculosis. When I first began writing about elephants and M-TB, many, including high ranking USDA officials refused to admit publicly that the disease is transferred from the elephants to humans and back again. The USDA now admits this.
As for the spread of tuberculosis, organizations that follow the disease know its trending up. A study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, reported that 55 percent of elephant handlers from one herd -- caught tuberculosis. In some areas tuberculosis rates are soaring such as Santa Clara County where the circus will be headed in a few weeks.
According to one former elephant handler on the blue unit -- six of the elephant handlers working with the blue unit -- the one performing in Los Angeles County right now-- tested positive for tuberculosis.
Their bodies are ticking bombs as they wait to see whether they will come down with the disease itself.
Humans passed the M-tuberculosis to the elephants and the elephants pass it back to the handlers and presumably circus goers -- in an endless merry- go- round of heartache and death that not one government official is concerned enough to stop.
Why would the owner of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus carry tuberculosis infected elephants across the country and around the world? It's simple -- you already know the answer -- money.
Kenneth Feld, owner of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus -- was at one time -- the fourth richest man in America according to Forbes magazine, and he wants to keep it that way.
Since 1993, he has known his elephants were infected with tuberculosis...at least 30 died during the last 10 to 15 years.
His herds have been devastated. While he promises to conserve the species -- he systematically kills them -- while hiding the proof that they carried M-TB from one American city to another. His circus is not alone.
A circus that gives elephant rides to children just left Oakland. One of the elephants is so sick she can barely stand -- she tested positive for tuberculosis, and still the families come to let their children ride these animals.
With heightened concern by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control that a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis is emerging -- why not consider elephants with tuberculosis blowing moisture from their trunks inside a closed area -- a possible TB Petri dish?
Unimaginable greed and desire for money at the expense of human life keeps this cycle going.
Kenneth Feld has said the circus is not the circus without elephants. Cirque de Soleil has dispelled that myth.
The diseased animals would still be a secret except for health records Ringling was forced to release in Discovery after a Federal judge threatened to throw Kenneth Feld in jail if he did not turn the records over.
Feld is not facing criminal charges for knowingly taking the animals across the country, but many believe he should.
One former Ringling Bros., -- employee said -- under oath, "As the elephants enter and exit the arena, they blow moisture from their trunks hitting people in the face, exposing them to tuberculosis."
In depositions from a former chief financial officer and a former private investigator, both say as far back as 1993 Feld knew and hid the fact that his animals had tuberculosis.
Joel Kaplan, one of Kenneth Feld's Private investigators, says a Ringling veterinarian told him:
"About half the elephants in each of the shows had tuberculosis and the tuberculosis was an easily transmitted disease to human beings..." "I think it is immoral to have elephants traveling in every arena in the country with tuberculosis. "
Kenneth Feld will finally face charges in court for allegedly abusing the endangered Asian elephants. After 8 years and millions of dollar in a Herculean effort to put the court date off -- a gutsy Federal judge finally set a trial date for October 7th.
Feld is also entangled in another law- suit -- one that has been on- going for 10 years. He is charged with trying to ruin the career of a reporter who exposed his family's history.
The forest is burning and your government officials are either whistling through the grave yard or too busy to notice.
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