In celebvocacy, there are the stars who put on business suits and woodenly read statements — and then there are the pros.
Bob Barker, legendary “Price is Right” host and animal rights activist, sat quietly as experts made their case for banning elephants, tigers and lions from circuses. The Rayburn conference room finally lit up when Barker, 87, leaned forward to speak.
“Exotic animals cannot be healthy and can’t even approach being happy in a traveling circus,” he said in that grandfatherly game show voice, ticking off a litany of animal abuses. “They never know a day that is really pleasurable. We all have problems, but we all have good days. These animals don’t have good days.”
Barker retired four years ago and now devotes most of his time to animal welfare. He came to Washington to support the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, which would pull wild animals from circuses because of cramped trailers, tiny cages and constant travel.
Barker was flanked by sponsor Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), “CSI” actress Jorja Fox and reps for Animal Defenders International and the Performing Animal Welfare Society. Moran conceded that he’s “not extraordinarily optimistic” that the bill will be passed anytime soon.
Things got interesting when the congressman singled out corporate constituent Ken Feld, owner of Vienna-based Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Moran told reporters it would be useful if Feld got involved “in a constructive way” to ensure the animals were treated humanely.
Feld Entertainment shot back in a statement Wednesday calling the bill “baseless” and blasting Moran for pandering to activists and risking the jobs of the 750 employees who work for the “family -owned business.” The company claimed it adheres to animal husbandry best practices, and said its reps were barred from the press conference and meetings with the congressman.
Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes told us that his staff met with Feld’s team last week and that she was unaware of anyone being turned away from the public press conference. “This legislation is a matter of public safety and the humane treatment of animals,” said Hughes. “If the bill puts an end to the hiring of individuals who are mistreating these intelligent and beautiful creatures, I would consider it a success.”