Animal rights group protests Ringling Bros. circus downtown

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 3, 2015)-- Members of the Indiana Animal Rights Alliance were downtown Thursday protesting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Demonstrators claim the circus mistreats animals and promotes animal cruelty.  Organizers say they recommend going to a circus that doesn't use animals in their performances.

"We believe a lot of people aren't aware of how awful the animals are treated in circuses-- the beatings, the terrible training techniques. We want people to be aware when they buy a ticket to the circus they are funding that abuse of circus animals," said Diane Schabath with Indiana Animal Rights Alliance.

FOX59 reached out to the circus for comment. Stephen Payne, spokesperson for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, released the following statement:

Once again animal rights activists are attempting to distort the excellent animal care provided by everyone with Ringling Bros. The health and welfare of our animals is a top priority that can be in every single performance. We are also inspected by local, state, and federal animal welfare officials in almost every city we visit, including Indianapolis. Rather than take what animal rights groups claims at face value we invite Indianapolis families to come out and see for themselves that all of the animals are thriving at The Greatest Show On Earth.

Earlier this year, the circus' parent company announced it would phase out its elephant act by 2018.