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Dancing Circus Elephants Draw Cheers and Protest Under the Brooklyn Bridge

By Janet Upadhye | March 20, 2013 3:38pm | Updated on March 20, 2013 4:18pm

DUMBO — DUMBO lived up to its name with an "elephant dance party" at Pier 1 under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Clowns juggled, children cheered and unicyclists pedaled Wednesday morning to announce 23 upcoming Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances at the Barclays Center.

"Come one, come all," said Borough President Marty Markowitz. "Buy those tickets and welcome to the most extravagant show the human eye can behold."

But not everyone is happy about the greatest show on earth.

Animal rights activists used the opportunity to voice their concerns over the way Ringling Bros. allegedly treats its elephants.

"Ringling Bros. beats and abuses baby elephants to train them," claimed PETA activist Ashley Byrne. "We hope families will choose to do something else that is fun and cruelty-free."

Ringling Bros. website states "training methods are based on reinforcement in the form of food rewards and words of praise. Verbal or physical abuse and the withholding of food or water are strictly prohibited."

The website also guarantees that Ringling Bros. abides by all state and local animal cruelty laws.

But Byrne, who said there is video proof of Ringling Bros. employees beating elephants with bull hooks, was determined to protest the circus.

Ringling Bros. spokesman Stephen Payne denied the claims of abuse saying that employees are using a training tool called a "guide" in the video and since then elephants have been seen by more than 60 veternarians who found them to be "healthy and well."

Kids from P.S. 287 in Fort Greene also turned up to see the show. Their eyes lit with excitement as they waved circus flags and waited for the elephants to perform.

"Children love animals and they adore elephants," Byrne said. "If they saw how they were treated they would run away kicking and screaming."

Circus ticket prices range from $30 to $194 and shows run through April 1.