White tigers: Tragic–not magic

KennytigerKathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Kenny died in 2008. If you didn’t mark his passing (you probably didn’t even know about it), don’t feel bad. Kenny, you see, was not the beautiful white tiger on posters for glitzy magic acts. He wasn’t the star attraction drawing crowds of admirers to the zoo. As the product of unscrupulous white tiger breeding, Kenny’s life and death ran under the radar. It was only through the compassion of a wildlife refuge in Arkansas that he was able to live out his life in comfort and even found a modicum of fame (video)–one of the luckiest of the unlucky. He died at 10 years of age from cancer (source).   Continue reading

First Amendment rights and the pursuit of animal rights

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Many decades have intervened since my First Amendment rights were trampled by the FBI. The year was 1970 and Richard Nixon was appearing at the Fort Wayne (IN) War Memorial Coliseum. A group of us from a small, nearby college with a long history of peace activism decided to take in the spectacle; I suppose our clothes and hair tipped off The Man that we weren’t enthusiastic supporters of the Viet Nam war. We were detained, our tickets confiscated “for verification” and never returned.

We were angry. We felt powerless. We returned to school and told our story. It found its way into the Peace Studies bulletin, and that was the end of it. Today, older and wiser and again confronted with a suspected infringement upon First Amendment rights, I knew exactly what to do: Contact the American Civil Liberties Union.   Continue reading

“Well-mannered predators” and other speciesist notions about animal captivity

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

No sooner do we turn the page on the sad story of two wild Montana grizzlies gone psychotic in a Midwestern zoo when along comes more tragedy involving captive wild animals. Yes, wild animals taken from their habitats or born into captivity to live unnatural, diminished lives are tragic cases in their own right. Witness a bear turning endless tight circles in her cement cell (instead of ranging across 100 square wilderness miles) and tell me this isn’t tragic.

But the latest calamities are compounded in that they are also human tragedies–and needless ones but for our speciesist insistence on keeping wild beings captive for our own pleasure and profit. Continue reading

Which animals would St. Francis bless today?

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

click image

You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the Blessing of the Animals offered by churches during October, usually near the Oct. 4th Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. In fact, non-Catholic denominations frequently conduct their own animal blessing services, and why not–what’s not to love?!? Heck, you don’t even have to be religious to find beauty in this simple, compassionate gesture. Continue reading

The animal rights movement: “A beast to be slain”

rightsofanimals.edublogs.org

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley in Ravalli County is known for its stunning mountain scenery and its oft-stunning conservatism. Deep-canyoned east-west drainages rising toward the Idaho divide serve as a gateway to the 1,340,587-acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The valley’s politics often serve as a gateway to extremism. Guns? Lordy. Militia? In the works. A hunters’ group, hoping to encourage more dead wolves (the only good kind), offered prize money for photos of wolves killed in districts where hunting quotas hadn’t been met. The county planning board (subdivisions and all that -yawn- stuff) hosted an expert on Agenda 21, a U.N. plan to steal our freedom and our property, destroy the Constitution, use environmentalism to create a one-world government, and relocate most Montanans to urban areas like Seattle.  In a recent Bitterroot Memorial Day parade–Memorial Day, mind you–a pickup towed an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library.” You get the picture.

And so it was, driven by curiosity, that a public seminar titled “The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement” caused me to give up half of a recent Saturday and head up the valley. Continue reading

Circus reveals more about human animal than circus animal

Gene Bernofsky photo, World Wild Film Expedition.org

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Much has been written about circus animal exploitation, and those who care to know, do know. We know about the trauma of capture and separation. The abusive training. The extreme confinement in trailers, cages, and chains–lives so impoverished that animals lose their minds. And the fruit of that suffering: brief minutes in the ring where defeated animals perform unnatural, coerced acts for cheering throngs. We know about the suffering when things go as planned, and the suffering when things go awry.

But this piece is about the other animal–the one who wields the whip and bullhook. The animal who clutches kids with one hand and circus tickets with the other. The animal who profits off the misery of “lesser” beings in the name of charity. In short, the animal who determines the fate of all others. Continue reading

Youth Can’t Handle the Truth?

Seth Victor

I happened to watch CNN this afternoon at the deli where I had lunch. The featured story focused on what age is too young for a child to be vegan.

Recently there has been a stir surrounding “Vegan is Love” by author Ruby Roth. To quote the Amazon summary,”Roth illustrates how our daily choices ripple out locally and globally, conveying what we can do to protect animals, the environment, and people across the world. Roth explores the many opportunities we have to make ethical decisions: refusing products tested on or made from animals; avoiding sea parks, circuses, animal races, and zoos; choosing to buy organic food; and more.”

Such brashness.

Continue reading

Civil Penalties Assessed Against Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.)

Sarah Markham

A strong message of against animal cruelty has been delivered to the public, especially those who exhibit animals for profit, with the assessment of civil penalties against the Ringling Brothers.   On November 28, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Field Entertainment, Inc., paid $270,000 in fines for violations of Animal Welfare Act pursuant to an agreement that have been reached with USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care be provided for animals exhibited to the public.  PETA repeatedly urged the USDA to take action against Ringling Brothers for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  In 2009, PETA led an undercover investigation to reveal “the saddest show on earth,” which included the exhibited animals being struck with bull hooks.  In August of this year, an elephant ‘stumbled’ according to Ringling Brothers, but an eyewitness believed the elephant collapsed when the handlers were moving her. Continue reading

Protesting circus animal exploitation in Missoula -or- How we spent our weekend

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

Four performances, four protests. Our numbers ranged from three at one show to as many as 10 at another. The Carson & Barnes circus arrived in Missoula, MT for shows on July 9th and 10th, and no show went without protest.

You might know C&B from the eye-witness account of one ex-employee. Or perhaps from the widely-circulated, much-condemned elephant training video (“Make ‘em scream!”). The footage includes a sadistic training session, caged bears neurotically pacing and bobbing, and an elephant getting her hair burned off with a blow torch. Apparently this was filmed before the waxing craze. One can only surmise that their hair, which is supposed to grow on their bodies, somehow interferes with the performance. Perhaps it’s just too scratchy for the pretty circus lady who clambers up on Jumbo! The C&B Elephant Care page says hair is “often…removed with clippers; this helps to prevent parasites from growing on their skin.” Wild elephants, who don’t shave, wax, clip, or torch, wallow in mud and dirt to protect their skin. Continue reading

Circuses: Quit clowning with animals’ lives!

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

Running away to join the circus! What a call to liberation–beckoning kids for generations. An escape to freedom from nagging parents, onerous chores, meaningless homework. Restless adults still hear that siren song—now merely an escape fantasy—and imagine leaving the past behind and starting over as someone new.

While the human version is all about free will and freedom, for other species—whether captured from the wild or bred into captivity—the circus means bondage. Captured animals are abducted away from everything good and natural—family, home, accustomed diet, comfortable routine. Chained or caged (some once roamed 30 and more miles a day!), they’re transported a world away, forced to start life anew in slavery. Captive-bred animals, never having experienced the life nature intended, know only the exploitation: abuse, crushing boredom, perpetual confinement. One wonders if they aren’t the “luckier” of the two. Continue reading

How About You?

 Seth Victor

I am in San Diego, CA, a legendary city named after majestic sea creatures. I’ve enjoyed some of the great sights, but I would have been remiss not to visit the “World Famous” San Diego Zoo. I did so with some hesitation (and with a certain singer in my head). I was previously under the impression that the San Diego Zoo was more like a wildlife safari, where the people are in the cage moving in the environment. I was disappointed to find out that it is not. The Wild Animal Park of which I was thinking is a totally different place. The zoo is a rather nice zoo. It emphasises its conservation of endangered and threatened species. Zoos, however, are a contentious issue for many in the animal rights world. The question is whether animal exploitation is acceptable when the purpose is to bring the animals closer to humans. That’s a simplistic way of phrasing it, since circuses also bring animals closer to people, but are not something to celebrate. Yet many view the boredom and enclosed lives of animals in zoos just as poorly, arguing that media sources such as documentaries bring animals to life in a way that does not cause them suffering. 

Continue reading

Why It’s Not About the Elephants

David Cassuto

Here now, a few words about the Ringling Brothers case.  The suit focused on the treatment of Asian elephants – an endangered species – by the circus.  Much credible evidence suggests that the elephants were mistreated, both by intent (using bullhooks to “train” them) and by the rigors of the circus life, a life which confined them for much of their lives, prevented them from socializing and from moving freely about and generally forced them to live counter to their instincts and nature.  These allegations and others seemed to place the circus in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), whose “Take” provision (Section 9) prohibits the “take” of any endangered species. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(B).

The term “take,” as used in the ESA, includes actions that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” 16 U.S.C. § 1532(19). The Fish and Wildlife Service defines “harm” to include any act that “actually kills or injures wildlife,” including actions that “significantly impair[ ] essential behavioral patterns.” 50 C.F.R. § 17.3. “Harass” under the ESA means: an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.  In sum, the Supreme Court has made clear that the ESA defines “take”  “in the broadest possible manner  to include every conceivable way in which a person can ‘take’ or attempt to ‘take’ any fish or wildlife.’ “ Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Cmtys. for a Greater Or.,515 U.S. 687, 704 (1995).

On the face of it, the allegations regarding the treatment of the elephants land squarely within the scope of behavior prohibited by the ESA.  This lawsuit marked the first time the ESA had been invoked to cover the treatment of performing elephants.  I do not here have time to summarize the merits and facts of the case; you can read more about it here and here and elsewhere.  I must focus on the procedural posture of the case since it ultimately proved dispositive.   Continue reading

Elephant “Training” Photos

David Cassuto

Paucity of posts this week, for which I apologize.  More soon.  In the meantime, if anybody was thinking that the allegations of the plaintiffs in the Ringling Brothers case were exaggerated, take a gander at these elephant “training” pics.  They are not from Ringling Brothers but they do reflect standard training practices.

Uncoupling Circuses and Cruelty

If you follow the news and care about such things, then you know that the long-awaited circus trial has begun.  In brief, Ringling Bros. circus must defend against charges that its use and (mis)treatment of exotic animals in its care violates the Endangered Species Act.  Plaintiffs include the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Fund for Animals.  Among the acts alleged to violate the law include using of bullhooks to “train” elephants to perform stunts that have absolutely nothing to do with their typical behavior, chaining them continuously when they are not performing, depriving them of natural habitat and adequate exercise, and more.  Some of the activities that the circus argues constitute necessary training or discipline seem just plain vicious. A verdict against the circus would be a huge legal victory, with significant changes in the way animals are used in travelling entertainment shows almost certain to follow.  Read more about the trial and accompanying issues here, here, here and lots of other places as well.

I have not blogged extensively about the trial in part because it is so well-covered elsewhere.  However, the issue of circus animal treatment has been around for a long time and it would be nice if the media’s gaze could expand to include some of the anti-cruelty efforts going on at the local and grass-roots levels.  For example, last week, I met with the Committee to Ban Wild & Exotic Animal Acts – a group comprised of people in the Westchester community lobbying for legislation that would bar businesses using wild and exotic animals in their performances from county facilities.  This group and others like it, both in Westchester and elsewhere, have had some significant legislative successes (including ordinances in the towns of Greenburgh, NY, Stamford CT, and Quincy, MA).

People working at the local level often face hostility and/or indifference from their friends and neighbors, and their work–even when successful–goes unheralded.  That’s too bad.  Like most institutionalized animal abuse, exotic animal acts are market-dependent. Without venues in which to perform, companies devoted to such endeavors cannot long survive.  People like those in the Committee to Ban Wild and Exotic Animal Acts are working to starve the beast of animal exploitation.  Regardless of the trial’s outcome, such groups deserve our attention and support.

dnc

Update: Check out this article on two of the members of the Committee and their efforts on behalf of the circus animals.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,265 other followers