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The Running of the Ostriches

March 8, 2015 by Leave a Comment

News & Opinion

From March 13th – 15th, more than 100,000 people will travel to Chandler, Arizona, to watch ostriches being abused and exploited during the city’s annual Ostrich Festival. For three days, jockeys will climb onto the backs of ostriches; grab them by their wings and feathers; and force them to run around a track in front of cheering spectators. They will also hook the birds up to chariots to race them.

Ostrich racing - not so "great" for the ostriches

The “Great Ostrich Race” is not so “great” for the ostriches

Ostrich chariot racing in Chandler, Arizona

Ostrich Festival in Chandler, Arizona (photo:

According to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival, “ostrich races captivate audiences with their crazy riders and unexpected animal behavior.”

Ostrich tramples jockey during race

Ostrich tramples jockey during race (photo: Joshua Lott/Reuters)

According to PETA, ostrich races harm ostriches, “subjecting them to rough handling amid chaos and screaming crowds” in events that “cause them fear and stress and can result in serious injuries.”

The Association of British Travel Agents, whose Animal Welfare Guidelines discourage customers from attending ostrich races, agrees: “The ostrich skeleton is not designed to support a jockey’s weight on its back.”

Ostrich racing accidents are common

Ostriches are not designed to carry humans (photo: Joshua Lott/Reuters)

The company that produces the festival, Universal Fairs, describes it as a “family event.” In addition to ostrich racing, the festival offers carnival rides, entertainment and “spectacular food,” including ostrich burgers and jerky. Also on sale at the festival are ostrich leather products, hand-painted ostrich eggs, and dusters made from ostrich feathers.

Burgers at the Ostrich Festival (photo: TheKitchenFairy)

Can the ostriches forced to race smell their friends being cooked? (photo: TheKitchenFairy)

These medieval ostrich races, which began in 1989, are not a focus of the animal rights community, but that wasn’t always the case. In 1995, 35 members of Arizona People for Animal Rights (APAR) entered the festival grounds with posters and distributed over a thousand pamphlets. Three of the activists were arrested after handcuffing themselves to the announcer’s podium and chanting, “There’s No Excuse For Animal Abuse!”

Ostrich chariot race

Ostrich chariot race (photo: Martin Gollery)

Ostriches are wild animals who have complex social lives and move quickly over long distances in Africa. Breeding them on cramped farms so that people can frivolously use their bodies to feed, clothe and amuse themselves is cruel and deprives them of the ability to do anything that comes naturally to them. The people of Arizona should stop entertaining themselves on the backs of ostriches – literally and figuratively.

Your Turn

1. If you live in the Phoenix area, please attend the protest planned for Sunday, March 15th.

2. Sign the petition created by Phoenix activist Tina Riedel demanding that the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and Universal Fairs Stop Using Ostriches for Entertainment.

3. Send your thoughts to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce President, Terri Kimble: and to the Special Events & Program Manager, Brianne Marr at

4. If you have a Twitter account, please tweet your thoughts to @cityofchandler or retweet TheirTurn’s tweets about the ostrich races to the city.

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Kevin Heart says:

    I agree with a lot of you this really does need to stop and I am glad it did lets just hope that no one brings it back. I know a lot of you are with me on this. Animal abuse is nothing to be glad about. it is a lot of things that you all have said and probably a hole lot more too.

  2. Peter Faulkner says:

    Relax …. The ostrich racing was stopped at Chandler this year (2019) because special interest groups got their way.

  3. Clifton Hall says:

    What a great sport! Fantastic!!! Ostriches are ornery bird with nasty dispositions = perfect justice! I would love to see more of it! Like a Disney Land of ornery animal exploitation!! Honest Ted Nugent could be the Master of Ceremonies!

  4. I only moved to Chandler to be near my family as we all age. Although I have met many like-minded people here, Arizona is a morally-bankrupt cesspool of barbarism because of the good ol’ boy legislative dynasty that is the Flakes and their ilk. Protection of animals and the environment are not red-state conservative (read Republican) values. This spectacle is sponsored by the Chamber of COMMERCE. Since the frontier-mentality runs rampant, this is a huge event for rednecks and they come from miles around. Unfortunately, it won’t be stopped unless some dedicated individuals are willing to

  5. Sharon Hopkins says:

    Why has this disgusting, archaic and cruel so-called ‘sport’ been allowed to continue? These wonderful ostriches don’t have a choice if they want to be used and abused by pathetic humans who see this as a form of entertainment. This should have been outlawed many years ago and consigned to the dustbin of history. Shame on the Chandler Chamber of Commerce for allowing this to take place. To add insult to injury (literally!) there is even a stall selling ostrich burgers !!! What vile people they are to do this to sentient creatures. May they all reap what they sow !!!

  6. Wendy says:

    How about stupid human racing!
    Stop tormenting Animals for stupid human entertainment!

  7. Carol Grubb says:

    How sad Yet another example of the human species degrading itself and concocting “entertainment” at any expense to other beings.

  8. Cathy LaSusa says:

    Ostrich racing … really? I thought we would be more civilized by now. The Chandler Chamber of Commerce should be ashamed of themselves … facilitating and encouraging this “entertainment” just to profit and get publicity. Makes me embarrassed to live in Arizona.

  9. karin maccurrie says:

    B@ stards

  10. Peter Rylander says:


    Peter in Sweden

    1. Dear Peter,

      Perhaps you would like to include Sweden in The Charter for Compassion.
      It is a global organization.

      I hope you will join, for your city, and for your state.

      I would also like to invite your city to take part in the compassion games:

  11. mikaela smith says:

    So disturbing! This must be STOPPEd!

  12. Debra Grossman says:

    We will not be there. Disgusting! So many disgusting things happen to animals in Arizona! However on a postive note, there are lot of animal rights activists like myself! We need to gather ourselves up and protest the hell out of this event!

    1. Tina Riedel says:

      Thank you for your support. Please join our efforts on Facebook–Phoenix Animal Liberation Squad
      We appreciate your help in raising awareness and ending the races!

  13. violetta says:

    arrêtez de torturer les animaux, ces pauvres autruches ne sont pas nées pour votre plaisir sadique!

  14. Geneviève GOULET says:

    L’humain ne sait plus quoi inventer pour soi-disant s’amuser, mais surtout pour asservir l’animal. Rien de tout cela est glorieux.

  15. Larry Trepel says:

    Another horrifying event that I never heard of before. I would say that I can’t believe 300,000 come to this nightmare, but nothing surprises me any more.

  16. MARY says:

    It is really hard to understand what people care about other than being entertained.

  17. Natalie P says:

    This must be banned.

  18. Natasha Brenner says:

    Another addition to the list of man’s inhumanity to animals. Disgusting and heartbreaking!

  19. Terry says:


    Thanks for posting this. I never heard of this one. Just when you think you heard it all, here’s another example of humans abusing animals for sport.

  20. Caren singer says:

    Animals are not here for our entertainment. If they could talk, they would certainly tell you to leave them alone!

  21. sandy primo says:

    absolutely barbaric

  22. Marcella rizzuto says:

    Who comes up with these stupid ideas

  23. Sofie Buyniski says:

    We will always have war and evil, if this is the way we treat creatures who we take contro over.
    Power does not make right, it just makes one more capable of torture and abuse, and become oh, so ugly. Is is is not the only ones entertained by causing terror in others.

  24. Gail farmer says:

    absolutely disgusting,cruel and barbaric.This needs to stop

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