The fact that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) aren't big circus goers isn't news. However, in a recent suit, the organization's grievances against Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows Inc. aren't about animal abuse; they're about espionage.
PETA brought suit Feb. 17 against Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. PETA's lawsuit alleges that Feld and his operatives, including a former head of covert operations for the CIA, used misrepresentation, illegal electronic surveillance and stolen PETA documents as part of a conspiracy designed to destroy PETA and other animal-protection organizations.
Feld and his company are no strangers to lawsuits. In 2000 the Performing Animals Welfare Society, a California animal-rights group, filed suit against Feld under similar claims.
"This is Elephantgate," said Jeffrey Kerr, PETA's general counsel in a press release. "The public is about to learn how low a circus boss will stoop to silence those of us who want Ringling's abuse of animals to end."