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Protesters Demand Freedom for Bronx Zoo Elephant, Happy

August 12, 2019 by 19 comments


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


Before Being Arrested, Animal Rights Activists Explain Why They Chained Themselves to Factory Farm Gate

August 5, 2019 by 2 comments


The News

On June 3rd, an estimated 600 animal liberation activists with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)  traveled to Reichardt Duck Farm, a factory farm and slaughterhouse in Petaluma, California, to rescue ducks in need of medical care and to protest and expose the inhumane conditions.

Before being arrested for chaining themselves to the front gate, two activists spoke to TheirTurn about why they were protesting:

“Reichardt Farms is a cruel, environmentally destructive factory farm masquerading as small family operation with happy ducks,” said Matt Johnson, a spokesperson for DxE. “The public has the right to know the truth – that these aquatic animals spend their entire lives in dark warehouses with no access to water, sunlight and the outdoors.”

As the protest at Reichardt Farms began, several activists attached themselves with bike locks to the conveyer belt in the slaughterhouse. To their astonishment, a slaughterhouse worker activated the conveyer belt, almost killing one of the activists. Another groups of activists retrieved dead ducks from the trash and brought them outside to show to the media. A third group of activists rescued sick ducks before they were slaughtered.

Direct Action Everywhere activist Thomas Chiang is almost killed after slaughterhouse worker turns on the slaughter line to which he is attached.

Two hours after the protest began, approximately 40 police officers in riot gear marched through the throngs of protesters and stationed themselves behind the activists who were chained to the front gate. Several hours later, they began cutting the chains and making arrests.

Throughout the afternoon, the riot police arrested approximately 100 activists and held the majority of them in Sonoma county jail for 48 hours. While several were charged with felonies, the majority received misdemeanor charges.

Stand off between riot police and DxE activists protesting animal abuse at Reichardt Duck Farms

Because the protest received extensive press coverage in the mainstream media, the cruelty of Reichardt Farms and the massive protests that took place will likely dominate google searches of this company for years to come.


Cube of Truth: San Francisco Takeover

June 17, 2019 by 1 comment


The News

Several hundred animal rights activists took to the streets of San Francisco during a Friday afternoon rush hour to participate in “Cubes of Truth,” a vegan outreach concept created by the animal rights group Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV). The multi-cube event was staged during the 2019 Animal Liberation Conference, which took place in nearby Berkeley.

During the cubes, participants either display videos of animal exploitation or engage pedestrians who stop to watch the footage.

“We’re out here to educate non-vegans about the imperative of being vegan and speaking up for animals,” said Paul Bashir, who co-founded AV with his partner Asal Alamdari in 2016. “We need to hold non-vegans to account for the evils we commit against animals and ask them what they’re going to do about it.”

An activist conducts vegan outreach with a pedestrian who stopped to watch the footage being displayed in a Cube of Truth

The growth of AV has been meteoric.  In 2.5 years, AV chapters have been created in approximately 1,000 cities worldwide. In that time, an estimated 15,000 cubes have been staged. In May, 2019, hundreds of AV activists participated in a 24 hour cube in Amsterdam. In July, AV plans to operate cubes in New York City for seven consecutive days.

Among the largest cubes of truth produced since AV’s 2016 inception were Berlin in 2018 and Amsterdam in 2019,


Largest Horse Racing Protest in History

June 13, 2019 by 3 comments


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.


Onlookers React to the 2019 Animal Liberation March

June 6, 2019 by 4 comments


The News

On June 1st, over 1,000 activists took to the streets of San Francisco to participate in the second annual Animal Liberation March. Viewed by thousands of people around the world on Facebook livestreams, the march sent onlookers a message that animals exist for their own purposes and should not be exploited for food, clothing, entertainment or experimentation.

Over 1,000 animal liberation activists took to the streets of San Francisco to participate in Direct Action Everywhere’s Second Annual Animal Liberation March

Along the parade route, TheirTurn spoke to onlookers to get their reactions:

The Animal Liberation March was one of several mass demonstrations organized by the grassroots animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) as part of its annual Animal Liberation Conference in Berkeley, California.