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Protesters Demand Freedom for Bronx Zoo Elephant, Happy

August 12, 2019 by Leave a Comment

The News

As crowds entered the Bronx Zoo on Saturday, August 10th, dozens of activists with the Nonhuman Rights Project staged a protest at the entrance to demand that the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoo, release an elephant named Happy to a sanctuary after holding her captive in a small enclosure since 1977.

Happy is a 48 year old wild-born Asian elephant who was captured in Thailand and brought to the United States in the 1970s.  She has been held captive in the Bronx Zoo since 1977 and has lived alone in a barren one acre enclosure for the past 13 years. During the winter month, she is intensively confined to a small cement cell.

During the winter months, Happy (not pictured here) is held in this barren enclosure in the Bronx Zoo

“Elephants are social animals who need the companionship of other elephants,” said Kevin Schneider, the Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, “It’s no wonder that we see her swaying and engaging in other unnatural behaviors that indicate distress and suffering.”

Activists with the Nonhuman Rights Project demand that the Wildlife Conservation Society release Happy, an elephant held captive at the zoo since 1977, to a sanctuary

Both of the elephant sanctuaries in the United States, the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California, have agreed to take Happy at no cost to the Bronx Zoo, but the WCS has refused to let her go.  “The Wildlife Conservation Society acknowledged in 2006 that keeping Happy alone would be inhumane, so we don’t understand why they won’t release her from captivity,” said Schneider. “They either don’t want to acknowledge that Happy’s solitary confinement for the past 13 years has been cruel , or they don’t want to cave into pressure from animal rights advocates.”

During the warm months, Happy is held captive and alone in a one acre enclosure.

In 2018, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus in New York Supreme Court demanding recognition of Happy’s legal personhood and her fundamental right to bodily liberty. Happy is first elephant in the world to have a habeas corpus hearing to determine the lawfulness of her imprisonment.

As litigation proceeds, public support for the Happy’s freedom has grown. In June, two elected officials made public statements encouraging the WCS to free Happy. Corey Johnson, the Speaker of the New York City Council, wrote, “Happy and all elephants need more space and resources than the zoo can provide, plain and simple.  I urge the Bronx Zoo, which first planned to close the elephant exhibit back in 2006, to finally transfer Happy to one of two recommended sanctuaries so that she can enjoy the company of other elephants and the benefits afforded to a facility specifically designed to meet her needs.”  In a tweet, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has voiced her opposition to solitary confinement for prison inmates, said that “The team and I are looking into what we can do” to free Happy.

In 2015, the animal advocacy group In Defense of Animals ranked the Bronx Zoo the fifth worst zoo in the United States for elephants. “The Bronx Zoo does not have the space, the resources, or the weather conditions that elephants need to live a reasonably healthy life. Shame on the Bronx Zoo for sentencing “Happy” to what is likely the most unhappy of sentences for an elephant: a life of self­ aware solitary confinement.”

A petition demanding an end to Happy’s solitary confinement has garnered over one million signatures.

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Largest Horse Racing Protest in History

June 13, 2019 by Leave a Comment

The News

On June 8th, approximately 150 animal rights activists staged a protest at the Belmont Stakes, the final leg in the American Triple Crown. According to the advocacy group Horseracing Wrongs, the protest, which attracted activists from as far as 150 miles away, was the largest ever at a race track.

During the protest, Patrick Batuello, the director of Horseracing Wrongs, spoke to TheirTurn about why the organization is working to abolish the horse racing industry.

“From the moment race horses are born, they are abused creatures. They are torn from their mothers as mere babes. Their bodies are pounded years before they are done forming. They’re intensively confined. They’re socially isolated. They’re drugged, doped and beaten with whips. They’re bought, sold, traded and dumped like common Ebay products and, of course, they’re killed routinely.”

While not unusual, the death of 35 horses since December at California’s Santa Anita racetrack has, for the first time, triggered mainstream public discourse about the ethics and future of horse racing in the United States. In a June 11th editorial (“We are Running Out of Ways to Tell Santa Anita to Stop Racing”), the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Over time, Americans have to decide how much death they are willing to tolerate in this ancient sport.”

According to Horseracing Wrongs, an estimated 2,000 horses die on the tracks or during training each year.

Horseracing Wrongs will be staging protests throughout July and August during the upcoming races at the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York. In addition, the organization is, in the coming months, sponsoring protests in 16 states at 22 tracks.

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See How Onlookers React to 2018 Veggie Pride Parade in NYC

April 11, 2018 by Leave a Comment

The News

As hundreds of New Yorkers took to the streets to march in the 2018 Veggie Pride Parade, many onlookers spoke on camera, giving their honest feedback about the parade and its message.

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Animal Rights Activists Disrupt U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s Fundraiser

April 2, 2018 by Leave a Comment

The News

Animal rights activists staged a protest both inside and outside of U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s campaign fundraiser over her ongoing refusal to call off her $50 million plan to lease pandas from China and put them on display in New York City.

“Pandas are wild animals who exist for their own purposes,” said Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of the animal rights group NYCLASS. “They should live freely in the bamboo forests of China, not in a display case in Manhattan.”

Animal rights activists protest U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney over her $50M plan to display pandas in Manhattan

In addition to opposing animal captivity for human entertainment, the activists argue that the Chinese breeding facility from which the pandas will be leased are merely money-making panda mills and that renting pandas fuels the market for captive pandas while doing nothing to conserve pandas in their natural habitat. 

Caretakers at the Chengdu panda breeding facility, the panda mill from which Carolyn Maloney plans to lease pandas, were caught on camera physically abusing panda cubs.

In February 2017, Congresswomen Maloney and her two billionaire backers, John Catsimatidis and Maurice Greenberg, held a “Black & White Panda Ball” at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to raise money for the project, which is estimated to cost $50 million.  The gala raised approximately $500,000. Her charity, The Pandas are Coming to NYC, continues to raise money.

Animal rights activists in NYC say that displaying wild pandas in an enclosure in Manhattan would be inhumane

In June, 2017, the NYC Council voted to pass a bill to ban the use of exotic animals in performances following an 11 year campaign waged by animal rights activists and supportive lawmakers.  Lawyers are reviewing the language in this bill to see if and how it would affect the display of pandas in an exhibit akin to a roadside zoo.

Your Turn

Please sign the Care2 petition asking U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to call off her plan to import pandas into NYC for display.

Follow No Panda Prison NYC on Facebook.

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Activist Group in New York Targets Mayor Bill de Blasio over Failure to Help Carriage Horses

March 15, 2018 by Leave a Comment

The News

NYCLASS, the animal rights group leading the fight to help the carriage horses in NYC, staged a protest at City Hall to demand that Mayor de Blasio provide some relief to the horses if he is not going to fulfill his campaign promise to take horse-drawn carriages off of the streets of midtown.

According to Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of NYCLASS, “Mayor de Blasio can act now on his own to help the carriage horses, yet he hasn’t lifted a finger.  We desperately need stepped up enforcement on the streets; an update of the antiquated, inadequate laws on the books to improve the welfare and safety of the horses; and a change in the way the carriage horses operate. Too many crashes occur because horse-drawn carriages operate in heavily trafficked areas, such as Central Park South and Times Square. Just last month, three tourists from Texas were sent to the hospital after the horse pulling their carriage spooked, threw the driver from the carriage, and bolted down Central Park South before crashing into parked cars. Carriage horses also still have no protection from being sent to slaughter. This is all taking place under the Mayor’s watch. It’s a disgrace.”

Advocates argue that horses should not be pulling carriages anywhere in the congested streets of NYC, much less Times Square

When running for Mayor, Bill de Blasio made an explicit campaign pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan on the grounds that they are inhumane and unsafe. He also publicly declared that, in his administration, animal rights would move into the mainstream. As a result of his promises, the animal advocacy community in NYC rallied behind him, helping him get elected.

The animal rights group NYCLASS stages a rally at City Hall to demand that the Mayor help NYC’s beleaguered carriage horses.

“We feel betrayed,” said Jill Carnegie, campaigns director at NYCLASS. “We moved mountains to help Mayor de Blasio get elected, but the animals who he promised to help are in worse shape now than before he took office.”

Horse-drawn carriage operators are prohibited from working in inclement weather, but the city does not enforce the laws.

Your Turn

Join NYCLASS on Facebook and sign up for action alerts on to stay apprised of and participate in the group’s effort to help NYC’s carriage horses

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