FAIRFAX, VA: Years of legal maneuvering culminated last week in the kickoff of a sensational trial pitting the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against the man who heads the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
PETA is suing Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of live entertainment company Feld Entertainment, for what the group claims was a systematic campaign by Feld's operatives to infiltrate the animal rights group "as part of a conspiracy designed to destroy PETA."
Paul Clark, the head of Hill & Knowlton's crisis communications practice in Washington, DC, is representing Feld during the trial. Clark declined to talk about the specific allegations in the case, but said "There's probably no substance to [the case]. At no time was PETA damaged in any way."
He characterized the case as "largely an attempt by PETA to get publicity" for fundraising purposes.
"It's by no means a story that extends much beyond this region," Clark said.
PETA has a longstanding campaign against circus practices. Its lawsuit alleges that Feld's conspirators stole documents, falsely infiltrated animal rights groups, and conducted surveillance in an attempt to discredit the group.
PETA spokesperson Holly Mattern said the group is handling its communications for the case in-house. It is seeking $1.8 million in damages.
The case is expected to be concluded within two weeks.