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PETA pulls unauthorized anti-fur ad featuring Michelle Obama, asks White House to demand name change for circus elephant named for the president

January 12, 2010 |  7:56 pm

Michelle Obama The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Tuesday it is pulling an ad campaign that used the likeness of First Lady Michelle Obama without her permission.

At the same time, PETA is urging the White House to take a stand against another unauthorized use -- the debut last week of the Ringling Bros. circus' newest performing elephant, "Baby Barack."

PETA said it used photos of Michelle Obama in an anti-fur campaign because the first lady does not wear fur. But they never received authorization to use her image.

Michael McGraw, a PETA spokesman, said the decision to pull the Michelle Obama ad campaign, which also featured Oprah Winfrey, Carrie Underwood and Tyra Banks, was "to show good faith."

In PETA's view, the use of the Obama name by the circus is far more disturbing. In a letter Tuesday to the president, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk urges the White House to demand a name change for Baby Barack.

"'Baby Barack' is not even a year old, but his curious and energetic childhood has been cut tragically short while Ringling attempts to profit from your popularity by putting him on the road to perform in the circus," Newkirk wrote.

Norfolk-based PETA says the circus elephants are abused and the babies are taken from their mothers prematurely.

Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, says its elephants are well cared for and add that using the name Barack is intended as an honor.

Feld spokeswoman Amy McWethy said Barack was born 11:57 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2009, just minutes before the date of Obama's inauguration. He was the first elephant born by means of artificial insemination at Ringling Bros.' elephant conservation center in Polk County, Fla., in the central portion of the state.

"We thought it was only fitting to call him Barack," she said. "He is an amazing elephant. We're very proud of him."

Baby Barack made his debut last week in Tampa to great fanfare, appearing with his mother, stepping up on an elephant tub and raising his trunk to the applause of the crowd.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Generally, in the past, it has said it does not condone the use of the first family's name or images for commercial purposes. Last week, the Weatherproof outerwear company agreed to pull an ad campaign built around a photo of Obama at the Great Wall of China in which he appeared to be wearing a jacket made by the company.

-- Associated Press

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House on Dec. 11.  Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

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