Animals in Entertainment Friday: Best and Worst Circus Elephant Links

All the links* about yesterday’s exciting news in one place! Including the ones that quote the Alliance! And ranked for how animal rights-friendly they are! h/t to Melissa Tedrowe of HSUS-WI who is a linkmaster EXTRAORDINAIRE

*okay, not really. But definitely some of them!

N.B.  All images are from the linked stories.

The Best of the Best

Category: The Best Video for Dane County Citizens to Watch

Winner 1:   Channel 3000: Elephants to Depart Greatest Show on Earth (video + text)

WKOW clip

Summary: Dane County citizens will get way pumped up about passing that legislation NOW. Also the only article to mention the ongoing investigation of this recent circus.

+ 1,000,000,000 for this

“Something like this shows that people are ready for this change right now. They are ready nationwide. They are definitely ready in somewhere it’s progressive and humane, like Dane County,” said Hannah West, executive director of Alliance for Animals.

and this

West said the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has an open investigation into the George Carden Circus that comes to Dane County.

The department began the investigation after the circus submitted an incorrect permit to DATC. According to the department, the permit did not account for one of the elephants used to perform and for forced elephant rides.

+1 for our blog being TV FAMOUS

VELENA YOU ARE KILLING IT! This is perfect! Follow Velena on facebook here.

Winner 2:       WKOW: UPDATE: Circus world aims to keep elephants in performances (video + text)

WKOW actually video

Summary: Ends the story by talking about the 2020 ban, which makes it another perfect local choice.

+ 1,000,000,000 for this

“The way that these animals are trained is not by bribing them with peanuts or anything, the way that you train your dog, because they’re wild animals, they can’t be trained unless they’re made afraid of something, unless they’re harmed and they’re hurt,” says Hannah West, with Alliance for Animals and the Environment.

West tells 27 News she was amazed to see Ringling Bros. make the decision and she says it sends the right message that animal acts are not acceptable entertainment.

and this

West’s group helped push Dane County’s Board of Supervisors to keep elephants out of circus acts in the area. In 2012, the board banned elephant performances in county buildings. Zor Shrine Circus performs every year at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The Shriners have a contract with the county through 2020 that allows the circus to keep the elephant act until then.

Shout out to ELF and Al Matano, though!

YAY JENNIFER! Thank you for choosing super great quotes and including the information about Elephant Free Dane County! Follow Jennifer on facebook here.

Category: Best Article to Balance Out These Other News Articles’ Falsehoods

Winner:       Great Lakes Echo: Circus elephant phase-out praised by regional animal rights groups (text)

Summary: Dallas Rising clarifies “retirement facility” and gives a shout out to the other wild animals in the circus; reinforces the Dallas shaped space in my heart.

+ 1,000,000,000 for Dallas Rising! Woohoo! Love her! She lays it DOWN about that “retirement facility”:

The repeated use of the word “retirement” describing the elephants’ lives post-circus is misleading, Rising said. “We tend to think of retirement as a vacation, that’s not the deal for these elephants.”

Rising said that during the elephants’ retirements on the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, scientists use the elephants for research purposes.

“While it’s good elephants won’t be travelling around with the circus, my concern is that Ringling will use this as an opportunity to spin what they’re doing to be kinder than it actually is,” said Rising.

According to the center’s website, researchers there perform “ground-breaking research in assisted reproduction in Asian elephants.”

Ringling Bros. plans to eventually open the Conservation Center to the public, according to Rising. “They’ll still be profiting off of the elephants.”

Rising called Ringling’s announcement “a limited victory.” “It’s a step in the right direction, and it’s great that all the years of education around the issue is starting to pay off.”

AND Dallas is the first one to mention the other animals (because she is perfect and amazing and everything):

“It’s frustrating that it’s just about the elephants,” said Rising. “Elephants have been the poster-children for animals in the circus – they’ve been an effective one, but other animals have been forgotten.”

Way to tell the truth, Amanda! And way to include the indomitable Dallas as well as the Alliance! Yeah! See Amanda’s other stories here.

Also Pretty Good

Category: Best National Coverage, Overall

Winner:       AP: Ringling Bros. to give up elephant acts in 3 years (text)

Summary: For local and mainstream, this is pretty great! Lots of animal rights sources, specifics on ordinances, and the only article to mention animal free circus alternatives.

+ 1 for specifics on local ordinances, PETA quote, Carol Bradley, mention of Blackfish (!), AND specifics on how Blackfish has affected SeaWorld (!!), local animal activist quote, mention of animal free circus alternative Cirque de Soleil, specifics on how human circus performers will be showcased, this phrasing (emphasis mine)

For now, animals remain part of this circus

AND for showing the true colors of Feld’s plan for the retirement center:

Kenneth Feld said initially the center will be open only to scientists and others studying the Asian elephant, but he “hopes it expands to something the public will be able to see.”

+0 for extended explanation of the HSUS lawsuit. Not sure whether it’s better or worse to include this information:

The initial lawsuit was filed by a former Ringling barn helper who accepted at least $190,000 from animal-rights groups. The judge called him “essentially a paid plaintiff” who lacked credibility and standing to sue, and rejected the abuse claims.

also, this juxtaposition (emphasis mine):

We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant,” Kenneth Feld told The Associated Press as he broke the news that the last 13 performing elephants will retire by 2018, joining 29 other pachyderms at the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.

But Feld acknowledged that because so many cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, it’s difficult to organize tours of three traveling circuses to 115 cities each year. Fighting legislation in each jurisdiction is expensive, he said.

-1 for this phrase:

Animal rights groups took credit…but Ringling Bros.’ owners described it as the bittersweet result of years of internal family discussions.

Also, for a photo slideshow that doesn’t show any elephant training abuse.

Category: Best Mainstream Coverage With Opportunities for Public to Learn More About Elephant Treatment In Circus

Winner:     Washington Post: The long battle to remove elephants from the Ringling Bros. circus (AP video + original text)

AP video

Summary: Lots of links! Begins by telling the stories of individual elephants, and is the only article to trace back the history of the animal rights movement against circus elephants. I learned something!

AP video ratings as below.

+1 stories of individual elephants, mention of the Mother Jones article (SO GOOD READ IT NOW), A TON of links to PETA information about elephant training abuse, mention of Blackfish (!), AND specifics on how Blackfish has affected SeaWorld (!!), specifics on local ordinances, interview with Wayne Pacelle

– 1 for misconstruing the conservation center as a retirement facility for the elephants, not questioning the circus’ choice to continue with other wild animals still included (if the laws limit exotic animals, shouldn’t that affect their choices about tigers and camels, too?), this phrase

The tension between the two sides — groups that say the elephants are being badly mistreated and the famous circus company that insists its trainers have always treated the animals like their own children — will finally come to an end in 2018

because NOPE, we still got (veggie) beef with them.

 The Mediocre

Category: The “Yeah, it’s probably not a problem if you just interview the Felds and no one else” Award

Winner:    AP: Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts (video)

AP video

+1 for including a man of color as the Ringmaster! – 1 for using women as decoration.

Summary: All Felds, all the time.

+ 1 for some video and pictures of activists, for extended interview with Alana Feld talking about their difficulties in fighting legal battles (go activists!)

– 1 for only interviewing the Felds and no one else, for misconstruing the conservation center as a retirement facility for the elephants, not questioning the circus’ choice to continue with other wild animals still included (if the laws limit exotic animals, shouldn’t that affect their choices about tigers and camels, too?),

Category: Great Video, Not Great Text

Winner:    NBC: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Phasing Out Elephant Acts (video + text)

NBC video

Summary: The video has a lot of really great footage of elephant training abuses, an animated map with the ordinances, interview with Wayne Pacelle. The text has a lot of really crummy things, including a statement about the Felds “saving the Asian elephant.”

+ 1 for showing extended video of elephant training abuses, citing the reason as a growing number of local ordinances limiting what the circuses can do (go activists!) AND showing an animated map with the ordinances, interview with Wayne Pacelle referring to this as the “Berlin Wall moment, ” citing the recent $270,000 settlement.

– 1 for misconstruing the conservation center as a retirement facility for the elephants, not questioning the circus’ choice to continue with other wild animals still included (if the laws limit exotic animals, shouldn’t that affect their choices about tigers and camels, too?), text below the video including Feld’s bizarre statement about their focus on “saving the Asian elephant” without question.

The Worst, Worst, WORST

Category: Sponsored by Feld, Inc

Winner:     NPR: Ringling Bros. Says No More Circus Elephants By 2018 (video by Feld + text)

Summary: NPR, my liberal bastion, I expected more from you.

I guess the text was okay but

– 1,000,000,000 FOR THE INCLUDED VIDEO BEING PROPAGANDA BY FELD ABOUT THE ELEPHANT CONSERVATION CENTER INSTEAD OF, LIKE, JOURNALISM. That said, I did get to learn a lot about the elephant conservation center, and even in a propaganda video, there are some heartbreaking statements like “the elephants are so well trained that the scientists can come right up to them.” (Because you know how that training happens. I’m so sorry, my elephant friends.)

Category: What just happened?

Winner:        NPR: Animal-Rights Advocates Cheer End of Elephants in Circus (audio)

NPR clip

Summary: I just don’t even know.

+ 1 for learning more about elephants and how they play and communicate!, talking to an animal rights lawyer!, specifics of circus life for elephants, chalking it up to “successful public education” (go advocacy orgs!)

– 1,000,000,000 for this interchange:

SIEGEL: You’ve mentioned that a better outcome for these elephants than the Barnum & Bailey Center in Florida would be zoos. Do you accept that there are good zoos that – while that may not be the ideal life for an elephant – it’s a valid educational institution and a zoo can treat elephants well?

MEYER: Some zoos can do that. There are – it’s very – it’s all relative. There are some wonderful zoos. The Oakland Zoo does a wonderful job of taking care of its elephants and allowing them to engage in natural behaviors and doesn’t hit them, doesn’t chain them.

What.

Quick Hit: Ringling Bros Removes Elephant Acts Due to Animal Welfare Concerns

As is probably indicative of my friend group, I’ve been emailed this article by at least five different people. But THIS IS SO EXCITING!

The circus’ parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018. Growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision.

We still have work to do though, friends. See below:

Other animals, however, will still be seen under the big top. The 145-year-old circus says that it will continue to showcase, horses, dogs, tigers and other animals in its performances.

To learn more about the Alliance’s efforts regarding Animals in Entertainment, click here.

The Lion Whisperer and the Best Way to Love Wild Animals

(h/t to Dawnwatch. Click here to send a thank you to CBS.)

If you have 15 minutes free today, I recommend 60 Minutes’ segment on The Lion Whisperer. The segment juxtaposes a hard look at the canned hunting industry with some beautiful footage of human-lion interaction. N.B.: There is footage of lions being killed in a canned hunting setting, but that is the only graphic footage, and there is plenty of warning before it happens.

As tempting as it is to want to visit wild animal petting zoos when visiting other countries, those kinds of establishments come at a price to the animals themselves. As one of the interviewees says about halfway through this video:

Whenever you pet a lion cub, you are directly enriching the canned lion industry.

In many cases, the only industry interested in adult wild animals is the canned hunting industry. They are too expensive and too dangerous for any other purpose.

So how can you be kind to animals when traveling? Be wary of environments where wild animals are available to be petted by humans. I’ll mention two more below, before letting you know some humane alternatives.

Another popular industry is “dolphin petting pools.” These can be found in the US and in other countries. For a brief overview of the problems, read the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society’s one page summary. The pools are harmful to dolphins:

 …unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions…

and dangerous to humans

Petting Pool visitors are also at risk from physical
harm….Several incidents of bites, head butts and trapped
hands were observed during the research.

Happy dolphin not in a pool! From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Bottlenose_Dolphin_KSC04pd0178_(cropped).jpg

Happy dolphin not in a pool!

Hitting a little closer to home, especially at this time of year, another wild animal enterprise that puts both animals and humans at risk are the elephant rides at the circus. Our friends at Animal Defenders International do great educating the public about the cruelty of circuses. This article mentions some of the damage escaped elephants can do:

An eyewitness reported the elephants were “breaking mirrors off, pulling panels off, breaking the windows out” of vehicles as they ran through the lot. Seeing the severe damage done shows how powerful these animals are. If the elephants were being used for children’s rides at the time, the consequences might have been tragic.

The Alliance has education campaigns about the circus every year, January – March. Contact alliance@allanimals.org if you would like to stand outside the circus in your hometown and hand out literature.

We do this! Well, we hand out leaflets in front of the circus. Come join us!

Let’s get back to the original question: how can you do ethical tourism if you love animals and want them to be a part of your travels?

The safest option is to love animals from a distance. There are all kinds of options for dolphin and whale watching and ethical safaris. You can get scuba certified or try snuba, or go on hikes.

What if you want to touch the animals? Well, that’s a greyer area. There are options for swimming with dolphins in the wild. My family went on one of those trips, and we really enjoyed it. We didn’t touch the dolphins, and we only briefly saw them, but it was amazing to be in their presence. After reading this post from Responsible Travel, I don’t know that I would do it again. It’s hard to know how ethical the company is, and I wouldn’t want to take the risk of working with a company that harasses dolphins for the sake of tourist enjoyment.

Another option, if you are in a place with wild elephants, is to skip the tourist venues and visit a sanctuary. This post has suggestions for ethical elephant encounters in South Asia.

If you don’t want to research all of this on your own, there are lots of people willing to help you, from places selling ethical travel packages to vegan travel agents. It can be more expensive, but you know your money is going to good places. My brother and his girlfriend used one of these services when planning their trip to Tanzania, and they really enjoyed the experience.

The bottom line is that if you’re going to interact with wild animals, do some research into the risk to them and to you before handing your money over. And when in doubt, go by this rule that I always follow:

There is always a greater love. Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals ‘love’ them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.
– Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year: April 28.

You may enjoy your vacation most of all if you just take some pictures, and donate the money you would have spent on wild animal enterprises to an organization helping to keep those animals safe and healthy.