Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time


Modern Day Slavery

August 4, 2016 by Leave a Comment

The News

A slave is defined as “someone who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.” Across the globe, wild animals are held captive in circuses and subjected to violent punishment in order to force them to perform for human entertainment. Their plight is chillingly similar to that of the victims of the African slave trade.

Like the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals are often kidnapped from their homes and held captive in chains and prison cages — when they’re not performing.  Circus elephants, for instance, spend 97% of their lives shackled. One investigation showed that, for weeks at a time, UniverSoul Circus kept tigers in cages so small that they could not make “normal postural adjustments.” The confinement causes many animals to go insane.

Chains are used to restrain non-human animals in just as they were to restrain humans during the African slave trade.

Chains are used to restrain animals in circuses just as they were to restrain humans during the African slave trade.

Like the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals work out of fear of punishment. Tigers and lions are whipped; monkeys and camels are beaten with sticks; and elephants are stabbed with bullhooks, devices that resemble a fireplace poker. Fear is the only way to entice wild animals to perform unnatural – and often scary and painful – tricks in front of noisy crowds.

Like the African slaves, circus animals are forced to work under threat of violent punishment.

Like African slaves, circus animals are forced to work under threat of violent punishment.

The bullhook is a weapon used to beat and control elephants in circuses.

The bullhook is a weapon used to beat and control elephants in circuses.

Like the victims of the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals often taken have their children taken from them. The kidnapped children are taught to fear humans at a very age. Baby elephants, for instance, are tied up; beaten with bullhooks; and shocked with police tasers. Young animals, especially lions and tigers, are often used for photo ops.

Baby animals are oftentimes taken away away from their mothers in circuses, not so differently from how families were separated at Southern slave auctions.

In circuses and slave auctions, babies are and were taken away from their mothers.

The plight of circus animals falls squarely into the definition of slavery.

Your Turn

To learn more about the plight of circus animals and what you can do to help them please visit Born Free USA.


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Animal Rights Activists Convince Potential Customers to Boycott Ringling

March 10, 2016 by Leave a Comment

The News

On the afternoon of Ringling’s final two shows in New York City, dozens of activists blanketed the entrances to the Barclay’s Center to educate customers about animal cruelty in the circus.  During the protest, several patrons changed their mind about going inside.

John DiLeonardo, the president of Long Island Organizing for Nature (LION) and an organizer of the protest, showed hundreds of people entering the circus a bull hook, the weapon used by Ringling “trainers” to beat elephants into submission.

John Di Leonardo on LION shows circus patrons a bull hook

John Di Leonardo shows circus patrons a bull hook

Roberto Bonelli, a grassroots organizer with Animals Battalion, said that activists staged protests every day that Ringling performed from February 25th to March 6th.

Ringling protest organized by Animals Battalion and LION

Ringling protest organized by Animals Battalion and LION

In 2016, Ringling announced that the company will terminate the use of elephants in its circus by May and relocate all of the touring elephants to its “Conservation Center” in Florida. Despite pleas from advocacy groups worldwide, the company refuses to send its 42 elephants to a sanctuary. Instead, Ringling intends to continue breeding the elephants and using them for cancer research.

Your Turn

To find out how to help captive circus animals, please visit Ringling Beats Animals.

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Ringling: From Exploiter to Caretaker?

March 16, 2015 by Leave a Comment


When Ringling Bros. announced plans to eliminate its elephant act in 2018, the company stated it would retire the traveling herd to its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

Ringling's "Conservation Center"

Animals are trained to perform tricks at a “conservation” center?

To the general public, the center sounds like an idyllic home for the elephants because “conservation” conjures up images of freedom, safety and care. But, for several reasons, Ringling’s facility is the wrong place to retire these elephants:

The “Conservation” Center is the training facility where Ringling “breaks” baby elephants. When babies destined for the circus are born at the center, Ringling trainers kidnap them from their mothers, chain them for up to 22 hours a day and beat them with weapons until they perform circus tricks on command. Ringling is therefore not retiring the elephants to a loving home; they are returning them to the people who broke them and stripped them of everything that makes life worth living. To the elephants, who have very long memories, the Conservation Center is a place that signifies pain, anguish, deprivation, domination, brutality and terror.

Ringling trainers tie down the baby elephants and  assault them with weapons to break them

Ringling trainers tie down baby elephants and assault them with weapons to break them

Conservation Center employees carry bullhooks, weapons to control the elephants’ behavior. In its own promotional video spinning its training and breeding facility into a “conservation” center, Ringling employees can be seen carrying bullhooks. How can living in constant fear of assault and being surrounded by people who terrorized them constitute a humane retirement?

Employees use bullhooks at Ringling Conservation Center

Employees carry elephant weapons at Ringling’s Center For Elephant Conservation

The Conservation Center is entirely inadequate. Ringling’s facility is closed to the public, and that is probably because the company doesn’t want visitors to see babies being broken and elephants living in small enclosures, often chained on two legs in a concrete barn.

Ringling Training Center.2jpg

Ringling’s facility is not – and can never be – a sanctuary for the elephants who were abused there

One woman who did manage to see the center posted this video, which shows an elephant swaying in her enclosure — a sign of boredom, frustration and/or grief.

When Ringling stops training elephants for the circus, the company will assuredly find ways to continue exploiting them for profit at its conservation center (after expanding the enclosures) – perhaps through selling tickets for visitors to view them in a zoo-like setting and/or to take elephant rides.

Ringling has always treated its animals like commodities. In fact, they plan to continue forcing the elephants to travel in box cars and perform in circuses until 2018. And they intend to continue using other wild animals in the circus indefinitely. The public should therefore have no reason to believe that, three years from now, Ringling’s owners will suddenly put the elephants’ interests ahead of their own.

In the wild, elephants don't form "conga lines."

In the wild, elephants don’t balance on stools and form “conga lines”

The elephants should be relocated to an accredited sanctuary and placed in the hands of caregivers, not trainers. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has stated it would welcome the Ringling elephants onto its 2,000 acre reserve.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would rescue Ringling's elephants

The 2,000 acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would rescue Ringling’s elephants (photo: The Elephant Sanctuary)

The fact that Ringling describes its training and breeding facility as a “conservation” center will be the subject of a future story.

Your Turn

Please sign the petition demanding that Ringling retires its elephants now — not in 2018.  Ringling’s facility is not yet equipped to accommodate more elephants, so retiring them now would mean that they could be sent to an accredited sanctuary.

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Activists Brave Frigid Temps and Angry Parents While Protesting Ringling Abuse

February 24, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

“You’re scaring my child,” said one mother as she passed activists with posters showing abused elephants. She attempted to cover her son’s eyes and ears to protect him from the images and chants, but she only had two hands.

Another mother gave the finger to an activist who showed her an actual bullhook, the weapon used to beat elephants into submission or, as Ringling describes it, an “accepted elephant husbandry tool.”

Animal rights activists brave the elements on behalf of the elephants (photo: Miriam Lucille)

Braving the elements on behalf of the elephants (photo: Miriam Lucille)

Ringing protest (photos: Miriam Lucille)

Children look at the images; parents look the other way (photos: Miriam Lucille)

One ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman with seven young children appeared stunned when an activist said, “The Torah prohibits Jews from causing Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim (unnecessary physical or psychological pain to any living creature). With a guilty look, she said she “didn’t know” when told that baby elephants are “kidnapped from their mothers” in the circus.

Such were the interactions between protesters and customers during opening night of Ringling Bros. Circus in New York City. Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained was there to report.

If one state lawmaker has his way, elephant performances will banned in New York. In January, Senator Brad Hoylman introduced a bill to prohibit the use of whips, bullhooks and chains on elephants. Without these weapons, Ringling cannot control the elephants, making it impossible to force them to perform.

Bullhooks are weapons used to force animals to perform tricks (photo: Miriam Lucille)

Bullhooks are weapons used to force animals to perform tricks (photo: Miriam Lucille)

New York would not be the first place to ban circus elephants. In October 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that “the City Council asked the city attorney’s office to prepare an ordinance outlawing the use of the bullhook. Baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks and other implements used on the pachyderms would also be banned.” The ordinance takes effect in 2017. In December 2014, lawmakers in Oakland, California, voted to ban the use of bull hooks, and that law also takes effect in 2017. Elephant acts in circuses are already banned in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Paraguay, Columbia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Ringling Bros

Elephants perform tricks to avoid punishment.

Photo: PETA

Elephants are stored in boxcars when traveling between cities (Photo: PETA)

Elephants are among the most intelligent and social animals on the planet. In the wild, they live in herds, raise their children and travel long distances. In captivity, they are deprived of the chance to do anything that comes naturally to them; they live in constant fear; and are stored in cramped boxcars for days at a time while traveling between cities. They are also beaten into submission, as has been documented many times during undercover investigations conducted by animal rights organizations.

Your Turn

Please visit One Green Planet to learn five ways you can help end the use of animals in circuses.

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In Spain and Egypt, Animal Abusers Become Victims

February 18, 2015 by Leave a Comment

News & Opinion

In the first half of February, two animals used for entertainment attacked their abusers – a bull used in Spanish bullfight and a lion used in an Egyptian circus. Given that many videos of similar attacks have gone viral, why do people still participate in bullfights, circus acts and other exploitive events? Do the thrills and profits really outweigh the grave risks? And is the public supposed to sympathize with the animal abusers when they become the victims?

BULL GORES MAN: On February 14th, a 20-year old man from Georgia was severely gored during a running of the bulls and bullfight festival in a small town near Salamanca, Spain. The 16 inch gash to his thigh was the worst the local doctor had ever seen.

American man gored during a running of the bulls event in Spain

American man gored during a running of the bulls event in Spain

During these festivals, which take place in villages across Spain, bulls run through the streets until they arrive at the local arena, where they are killed in bullfights. The fact that event organizers have medical units on hand to treat injured (human) participants should be reason alone to outlaw these medieval competitions.

LION POUNCES TRAINER: On February 6th, a lion pounced on his trainer during a circus performance in Egypt. The victims’s late husband, who was also a trainer, was killed by a lion in 2004.

How many more people have to be gored, pounced, maimed and killed by captive animals before government regulators and elected officials ban these barbaric events?

In the United States, three high profile animal attacks involving an elephant, tiger and orca have shined an international spotlight on the use of captive wild animals in entertainment.

1. In 1994, a 20 year old circus elephant named Tyke killed his trainer during a performance and injured 13 others as he bolted out of the arena and through the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. Tyke was shot almost 100 times before dying. The tragic incident was caught on video – from start to finish.

2. Siegfried & Roy, performers who used white lions and tigers in their Las Vegas show, had the most popular act in town from 1990 to 2003, when a white tiger bit Roy on the neck, severely injuring him and permanently shutting down their show.

Siegfried & Roy (photo: Las Vegas Sun)

Siegfried & Roy (photo: Las Vegas Sun)

3. Tilikum, the world’s largest captive killer whale, has killed three people, including Dawn Brancheau, a senior trainer at SeaWorld. Blackfish, a film that documents the Brancheau attack and its aftermath, has made Tilikum an international symbol of animals held captive for entertainment.

The late Dawn Brancheau stands on Tilkum's face during a performance

The late Dawn Brancheau stands on Tilkum’s face during a performance

Your Turn

To learn more about captive animals in entertainment and find out how you can help, please visit Born Free in the U.S. or Captive Animals Protection Society in Europe.

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