Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, a Baltimore native, along with animal rights group PETA have asked her hometown’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, to not allow the elephants in the Ringling Bros. Circus to be prodded with bullhooks. Now, Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s reportedly flippant response has spurred a war of words, reports The Baltimore Sun.
Upon receiving Pinkett Smith’s request, Mayor Rawlings-Blake basically told the former “Hawthorne” star that she had more important things to tend to and complained that actress had never even bothered to help her out on issues like homelessness and education when the city really needed it.
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An animal activist, Pinkett Smith responded by reminding the mayor that the city had banned the use of bullhooks, which is a training device resembling a fireplace poker with sharp points used to inflict damage or pain on an elephant’s sensitive spots, and expressed her concern that elephants should not have to be subjected to such inhumane treatment.
“Unlike me and other actors, elephants do not choose to perform. These endangered elephants will soon be in your jurisdiction. My friends at PETA and I join animal advocates across the state in asking for your leadership in holding Ringling accountable and requiring the circus to comply with Baltimore’s absolute prohibition of the use of devices such as bullhooks,” Pinkett Smith wrote.
The lead singer of the rock group Wicked also informed the mayor that many of the elephants have painful arthritis, and yet, are still being made to perform.
Last Friday, Pinkett Smith’s aunt, Karen Evans, who run’s Pinkett Smith’s Baltimore-based charity, fired off a letter to the mayor. In the note, the angry woman staunchly defended her niece, informing the public of Pinkett’s Smith’s generous contributions over the years to her city, as she spoke to WJZ, a CBS affiliate.
Evans underscored the million-dollar donation Pinkett Smith gave to the Baltimore School for the Arts in 2006 and the yearly contributions the actress has given to the Associated Black Charities. Pinkett Smith has also reportedly donated monies to the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, which has helped area schools buy books, and supported the James Mosher Little League.
“The mayor should take a little more time in her responses,” Evans said. “I just was very disappointed in her.”
Still, Mayor Rawlings-Blake was unmoved by Pinkett Smith’s plea and even mentioned that she liked the circus and wasn’t concerned about the elephant’s plight. Not surprisingly, the mayor’s nonchalant attitude has gained the support of the circus who slammed Pinkett Smith’s comments:
“She doesn’t know the first thing about elephants or about how to take care of them,” Stephen Payne, the spokesperson for Ringling Bros., told the Baltimore Sun. “She’s completely misguided.”
Meanwhile, if the bullhooks are used on the elephants, Ringling Bros would risk getting slapped with a whopping $270,000 fine for abuse of animals in circuses, stemming from dozens of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which date back to 2007.