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.
According to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival, “ostrich races captivate audiences with their crazy riders and unexpected animal behavior.”
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.”
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.
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!”
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.
1. If you live in the Phoenix area, please attend the protest planned for Sunday, March 15th.
2. Sign the Change.org petition created by Phoenix activist Tina Riedel demanding that the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and Universal Fairs Stop Using Ostriches for Entertainment.
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.