People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) today lodged an "urgent" complaint with the California Department of Fish and Game in a bid to stop kangaroo boxing in Costa Mesa this weekend, the animal rights group announced.
Nancy Foley, Fish and Game's Law Enforcement Division chief, is asked to intervene before any marsupial touches gloves with an opponent as part of the traveling Piccadilly Circus coming to the Orange County Fairgrounds Saturday, writes PETA's David Perle in an email.
"Celebrating 25 years entertaining families throughout North America, we've pulled out all the stops!," reads a Piccadilly Circus announcement about Saturday's 1:30-3 p.m. event. "You'll see the 'Elephant Extravaganza,' an elephant stands on one foot; 'Motorcycle Madness' has motorcycle daredevils somersaulting and spinning in a big Globe of Doom; 'Katunga' the giant jungle monster; the 'White Tiger Spectacular'; and our special attraction 'The Boxing Kangaroo.'"
According to PETA, the act involves a kangaroo named Rocky—dressed in boxing shorts and gloves—being "forced to remain in the boxing ring as his owner, animal exhibitor Javier Martinez, antagonizes the animal into defending himself."
The Norfolk, Virginia-based animal rights organization claims the U.S. Department of Agriculture has repeatedly cited Martinez for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, "including for failing to handle a kangaroo in a manner that does not cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort."
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Martinez is further alleged to be operating the act in California without a permit, something that may be impossible to get because state law prohibits causing animals unnecessary torment or any combat between animals and humans, PETA claims.
"Forcing kangaroos to box is an act that should have gone out with the cruel carnivals and 'freak shows' of the early 20th century," says Delcianna Winders, PETA's director, in a statement. "Restraining and terrorizing a kangaroo is obviously cruel—and in California, it's also illegal."
Her group has also alleged that Piccadilly Circus animals are kept in inhumane conditions, with at least two having died while touring.
Martinez could not be reached for comment, but the native Argentinian and fourth-generation circus performer told the Orlando Sentinel in July, "PETA knows nothing about kangaroos. What we do on stage is play with the animal. We don't taunt him. He sits on the back legs and moves the front paws back and forth because it is his natural behavior."