In just a few days, the Carson-Barnes Circus will be in Gilmer as part of a volunteer fire department fundraiser. But this normally festive event is now being confronted by the group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ,or PETA, who say the animals used in the circus are mis-treated, and they have video they claim will prove it.
Peta calls the video cruel, the circus calls it manufactured nonsense. Signs and banners are everywhere in Gilmer, promoting the coming of the Carson-Barnes big top circus. But a grainy video, sent to Gilmer City Hall by PETA claims to show a Carson-Barnes trainer abusing elephants. The video raised concerns with city and fire personnel. However, while they say it appears rough, they did not see any definitive proof of trainers abusing the animals.
"This video does appear to be somewhat old we have no evidence that this type of activity is still taking place and at this point we're satisfied that this is a fund raising activity that will go on" said Gilmer City Manager Jeff Ellington.
This afternoon, we spoke with Carson-Barnes executives who told us the trainer still works for them, and nothing he did in the video did anything to injure any elephant. What event organizers are worried about now is that PETA representatives may try to protest the event and hurt their chances of raising money for the fire department. The PETA accusations are also spurring mixed feelings from residents.
"I don't think they would abuse something that they make their money off of, but if they're doing it I won't support it" said local resident Amber Lee Elledge.
"Its just that PETA the only organization the has told us anything of this sort, we're going to watch the circus very closely to make sure the animals are not abused at any time" said Gilmer Fire Chief Mike Melton.
Carson-Barnes officials say it is also important to note, the video provided by PETA was made in 1999. They added that the circus has been investigated before by the USDA, and was never found to have abused or harmed any animal. The Carson Barnes Circus will be in Gilmer on Monday.