- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2001

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) This is the moment animal activists have all been waiting for: One of the biggest stars of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is going on trial for purportedly abusing an elephant with a metal hook just before a show.
Protesters have complained for years that circus animals are trained with painful methods and inhumanely chained, caged and handled. But few circus workers have ever faced criminal charges.
Activists hope tomorrow's trial of trainer Mark Oliver Gebel will lend more credibility to their complaints against "The Greatest Show on Earth."
"This is going to be a very interesting trial, mainly because it is Ringling, which bills itself as the top-of-the-line circus, with the best record, best resources, best treatment of animals," said Richard Farinato of the Humane Society of the United States.
Mr. Gebel, 31, is charged with animal abuse for purportedly puncturing an elephant's hide.
The offense carries up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
His attorney, James McManis, calls the case preposterous. He said Mr. Gebel would never be anything but kind to animals.
In the circus program, Mr. Gebel says his bond with the elephants "is as powerful as between any friends."
"I think these animal rights people are making a big mistake if this is where they're going to make their stand on animals in the circus, because nothing happened here," Mr. McManis said. "This is going to be a big embarrassment."

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