COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Friday was opening night for the Ringling Bros. Circus in Columbia; but not everyone is excited to see the "Greatest Show on Earth."
Dozens of people carried signs in front of Colonial Life Arena Friday evening; peacefully protesting against Ringling Bros. The circus will be in Columbia all weekend.
South Carolina Animal Activist League Director Rosemary Thompson said animals are abused and broken down to perform tricks. She said they want to educate others.
"Wild animals are not willing participants in a circus," Thompson said. "They are chained for up to 26 hours straight on the average. That is according to Ringling Bros. And they are beaten with sharp metal instruments called a bull hook. Many countries have already banned animal circuses."
Thompson said they plan on being at Colonial Life Arena an hour before each show scheduled this weekend.
Last December, Feld Entertainment, who owns Ringling Bros. settled two federal court cases claiming elephant abuse from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The company considered it a victory; saying that elephant abuse claims did not hold up in court.
"These defendants attempted to destroy our family-owned business with a hired plaintiff who made statements that the court did not believe," said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, in a statement.
"Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses," Feld said. "This settlement is a vindication not just for the company but also for the dedicated men and women who spend their lives working and caring for all the animals with Ringling Brothers in the face of such targeted, malicious rhetoric."