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Rescues, bans, and protests—any way you look at it, 2012 was an eventful year for animal activism. As I began reflecting on the last 12 months, I was heartened by just how vocal people were, and how their speaking out for animals helped to create positive changes. Our voices didn’t always result in an all-out victory, but even when they didn’t, we can still claim some success. Rather than rank these stories, I’ve put them in chronological order. Here are 12 for ’12:
12 Animal Activism Stories That Made Headlines in 2012 « Striking at the Roots.
Zoos’ efforts to preserve and propagate elephants have largely failed, both in Seattle and nationally. The infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos is almost triple the rate in the wild.
As the 1960s dawned, few Americans had ever seen a baby elephant. It had been more than 40 years since an elephant had been born in North America, and then only at a circus — never in a zoo.
But in a ramshackle exhibit yard at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, in the summer of 1960, the extraordinary occurred: A 15,000-pound male, Thonglaw, mated with a much smaller female, Belle, and Belle became pregnant. Zookeepers didn’t know that elephant gestation takes 22 months, though, and they missed the pregnancy altogether. Unaware, they transferred the pachyderm pair to a zoo in Portland, under a sharing agreement.
In April 1962, at the Portland zoo, Belle gave birth to a male named Packy, and an international sensation was ignited. Life magazine devoted an 11-page spread to the birth. The country got caught up in a Packy craze, with toys, clothes and books bearing the cute baby’s image flying off the shelves.
The public seemed to feel a unique connection to elephants, gentle giants who exhibit many humanlike qualities. Elephants live in families, exhibit memory and possess surprising self-awareness, such as recognizing themselves in a mirror. They experience grief and love, pain and fear.
Little Packy was everybody’s baby, and attendance at the Oregon Zoo soared as visitors from all over the world waited in half-mile-long lines to see him. Cash receipts skyrocketed, and so did donations.
It was clear that elephants, the world’s largest land mammals, were indeed “glamour beasts,” box-office stars that would help America’s zoos through the 20th century and into the 21st. Across the country, the race to produce baby elephants was on.
The effort would be good not only for zoos, officials insisted, it would be good for the Asian and African species that were under enormous pressure in their natural habitats. Zoos would help preserve and propagate elephants, they explained.
Fifty years later, The Seattle Times set out to examine how that effort has turned out. Despite the zoo industry’s insistence otherwise, by almost any measure, it has failed.
A gamble goes bad
It took decades, but Seattle finally got its own baby elephant. In 2000, an Asian female named Hansa was born at Woodland Park Zoo, instantly bewitching the public. But 6 ½ years later, when she was found dead on the elephant-barn floor early one morning, zoo officials knew their gamble had failed.
They suspected an elephant herpes virus known as EEHV that had begun ravaging young elephants at a handful of U.S. zoos. The virus, believed to spread by contact, could lie dormant for years, then move so swiftly it could destroy internal organs in hours.
They knew that the virus had infected elephants inside the Springfield, Mo., zoo where they sent Hansa’s mother to be bred. They feared it might find its way back to Seattle but the pluses “outweighed the negatives,” they said, and they took a risk.
Besides, the zoo industry’s governing body, the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), had privately approved Seattle’s plan. The AZA was desperate to produce elephants, hoping to reverse or at least slow an alarming decline in the number of the animals in American zoos.
Publicly, the zoo industry was claiming — and continues to claim today — that “elephants are thriving inside zoos.” It’s a message that AZA officials have delivered repeatedly to lawmakers and regulators, trumpeted in news releases, and highlighted in a recent national marketing campaign.
But they know it’s not true. And it never has been. Continue reading:
Elephants are dying out in America’s zoos | Nation & World | The Seattle Times.
It is only a matter of time before elephant acts are banned forever.
The Los Angeles City Council could soon approve a proposal that would make the use of elephants in such circuses as Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. a thing of the past in the city, if the Council adopts the November 20 recommendation of its Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee.
The proposed measure is contained in a letter dated November 1, 2012, to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, by L.A. Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette, providing seven options to regulate the use of elephants in circuses and other traveling circus shows within the City.
The letter states that the Board of Animal Services Commissioners recommended by a unanimous vote of 3-0 that the Mayor and Council consider various options relative to the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows and exhibitions. Read full story here: L.A. City Council May Ban Elephants in Circuses and Use of Bullhooks.
WHY IS THIS BEING REPORTED NOW?
Why wasn’t this news reported when Circus World was open for business and giving elephant rides to children?
See letter from September 2 regarding the potential TB exposure. Illegally imported elephants pose risk at Circus World
It is time to stop the use of elephants as entertainment.
BARABOO — Animals brought in to perform at Circus World Museum will be under more scrutiny than in past years.
The decision comes on the heels of an elephant owner who brought four elephants without an import permit to Circus World this summer.
Dr. Paul McGraw, an assistant state veterinarian with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said any exotic animal that comes into the state is required to have the permit. The elephants’ owner, Louie J. Delmoral, received a warning in late June.
Then a U.S. Department of Agriculture animal health technician and a DATCP field veterinarian said that one of the elephants was not eligible for travel or public contact in Wisconsin. The same elephant was exposed to another elephant that was suffering from tuberculosis at Carson and Barnes Circus in Oklahoma, according to a DATCP report in July.
It was determined the elephant at CWM be removed from Wisconsin or stay with the other three elephants in Baraboo as long as it didn’t have contact with the public.
Dr. Elisabeth Patton, a veterinarian program manager with DATCP, said there is no evidence that the elephant in Baraboo was sick with tuberculosis.
“Based on the medical testing and the increased level of monitoring given to it, the elephant didn’t pose a threat to the public,” Patton said.
McGraw said Delmoral did not violate any USDA rules.
“We just felt it was prudent for the elephant to stay in Wisconsin until they were ready to move,” he said.
There was no danger to anyone who came in contact with the elephant, McGraw said.
“There’s never been a case where an elephant gave a human tuberculosis,” Delmoral said. “We operate under very strict USDA guidelines.”
Delmoral, who has been training and showing elephants for 30 years, said he would not have been at CWM this past season if he was not in compliance.
“The USDA would not allow it,” he said.
CWM Executive Director Steve Freese said he is working with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to make sure those who bring animals to perform are in compliance before they are allowed onto the grounds.
“The state doesn’t tell me or show me if the animal owner is in compliance or not,” Freese said.
He said there is no “paper trail” at Circus World where he knows who is in compliance and what animal trainers or owners are not.
“How can I fix anything if they (the state and federal agencies) don’t tell me what is happening?” Freese said.
He said he is working with the USDA and DATCP to learn when they are visiting CWM to check the paperwork of the animal owners.
“Absolutely, we are making certain changes,” he said. “We want this to be a fun and safe environment for people to visit and to work.”
Dear Editor: A group of performing elephants was imported into Wisconsin by the Carson & Barnes Circus to the Circus World Museum without the required state import permits or the accompanying veterinary certificates of heath, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. One of the illegally imported elephants has tested positive for the tuberculosis antibodies. Tuberculosis is a serious, often life-threatening disease transmitted readily between humans and elephants.
A similar potential TB exposure was narrowly averted earlier this year after a complaint sent to DATCP by the Madison-based Alliance for Animals resulted in a female Asian elephant named Topsey being barred from entering the state after testing positive for tuberculosis antibodies. Topsey was scheduled to give forced elephant rides at the 2012 Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Also this summer, DATCP barred two elephants used by the George Carden Circus from entering the state. As you may know, the Zor Shrine Circus proudly contracts with the George Carden Circus for their elephant acts at the Alliant Energy Center.
Elephants in the circus are a public safety risk. Once again, I thank the Dane County supervisors for making the wise decision to ban elephant performances.
As you may recall, in the middle of the Dane County circus debate, the Alliant Energy Center booked the Piccadilly Circus.
Similar to the Zor Shrine Circus, Piccadilly Circus contracts the Franzen Bros. Circus for their exotic animal act. Brian Franzen has a long history of abusing his elephants. In 2009, Brian Franzen was filmed hitting his elephant before the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, WI. Video here.
In the past, Circus World also contracted Franzen for his elephant act and forced elephant rides.
Recently, PETA has obtained documentation showing that a Piccadilly Circus worker, who was allegedly killed by an elephant, is the same man who was caught just a week earlier beating Kosti (one of Franzen’s elephants) with a bullhook.
Read the PETA article:
Did Elephant Kill Circus Worker?
Update: PETA has obtained documentation from Animal Care and Control in Fort Wayne, Ind., showing that Casey Dale Walker, the circus worker who was allegedly killed by an elephant, is the same man who was caught just a week earlier beating an elephant with a bullhook.
Originally posted August 21: A whistleblower is alleging that a Franzen Bros. Circus worker was attacked and killed in St. Charles, Illinois, by an elephant late last week, although the death was reported as an accident involving a pipe. The source—who has provided PETA with reliable information before—reported that the worker was moved into his room after the incident in an attempt to cover up the cause of his death. Franzen Bros. had provided Piccadilly Circus with the elephant.
Sweeping Cruelty Under the Big Top
Even though circuses notoriously hide the abuses that they inflict on animals, this would be a different sort of cover-up if it’s true. PETA has called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to investigate the allegations, urged the St. Charles police to investigate the claims, and asked the Kane County Fairgrounds executive manager to preserve and retain all possibly relevant security video footage.
The exploitation of captive animals by circuses poses a grave danger. The accumulated strain of enduring years of beatings, bullhooks, and shackles causes some elephants to snap—and when elephants rebel against their oppression, lives are put at risk. In more than 35 dangerous incidents since 2000, elephants have bolted from circuses, run amok through streets, crashed into buildings, attacked members of the public, and killed and injured handlers.
The whistleblower’s report comes just a week after PETA received a complaint stating that someone saw a worker on the road with Piccadilly Circus repeatedly and forcefully beating and yelling at an elephant. The USDA is now investigating that episode.
What You Can Do
Please never attend any circus that uses animals and choose animal-friendly entertainment options instead. Also, be ready to take action for animals when the circus arrives in your town.
More info here:
In Wisconsin you can buy a tiger. . . or two without much effort. Watch this frightening video from ABC News on backyard zoos and the commercial enterprises of exotic animals in our state.
Dear Editor: An elephant named Topsy, currently traveling with the Piccadilly Circus, tested positive for tuberculosis. As you may know, the Piccadilly Circus recently performed at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Luckily, Topsy was not traveling with Piccadilly at the time. However, Topsy, who is handled by Franklin Murray of Elephant Walk, is scheduled to be at the Bristol Renaissance Faire this summer.
Transmission of TB may occur during activities such as touching or riding an elephant, and being touched by an elephant. Although there has been significant progress in TB testing for elephants, there are still many cases where an elephant has tested negative for TB only to test positive at a later date. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s animal welfare regulations require all captive elephants to be periodically tested for TB. In addition, due to the possibility of humans transmitting TB to elephants, those who have direct contact with elephants should be tested for tuberculosis on at least an annual basis.
Murray has been accused of animal cruelty by the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This is a good reminder of the cruelty that occurs in the circus and that elephants in the circus are a public safety risk. I thank the Dane County supervisors for making the wise decision to ban elephant performances.
Progress in the animal rights movement can seem maddeningly slow at times, but then along comes a tangible victory reminding us that our efforts and persistence DO pay off.
Last night in Madison, Wisconsin, thanks to the hard work of the state’s foremost animal protection group, Alliance for Animals and many stalwart supporters, the county board voted 23-9 to ban the exhibition of elephants for entertainment or amusement.
I am T – H – R – I – L – L – E – D.
The passage of this ban didn’t happen by chance. For years whenever the circus came to Madison, concerned citizens organized protests, distributed leaflets about circus cruelty, and carefully documented the sad condition of the elephants on display. Some filed USDA complaints.
Their efforts, and the moral integrity of those who voted in favor of the ban (list here), have made my adopted hometown a better, more compassionate place. Today my heart holds a little more hope for humanity. We know the right way, and sometimes we have the courage to act.