An 11 year campaign came to a screeching halt on June 21st when NYC lawmakers voted to ban the use of exotic animals in circuses. The bill, which has been championed by Council Member Rosie Mendez since 2006, passed with 43 votes. Only 6 Council Members voted against it.
NYC’s Public Advocate, who presided over the Council meeting when the vote took place, broke protocol by allowing animal rights activists in the Council chambers to break into applause when the vote count was announced, “Let it rip,” said Letitia James, who herself was a supporter of the ban.
Animal rights activists in NYC applaud the advocates and elected officials who led the fight to ban wild animals in circuses (from L to R: Activist John Phillips, Council Member Corey Johnson, Council Member Rosie Mendez, ADI’s Christina Scaringe, HSUS’ Joyce Friedman)
According to HSUS’ Wildlife Protection Specialist Joyce Friedman, NYC joins “over 125 municipalities and four states that have banned or restricted the use of animals in circuses.” Christina Scaringe, General Counsel of Animal Defenders International (ADI), added that 37 countries around the world have implemented a ban on exotic animals in circuses, with some of those countries also banning the use of domesticated animals.
In traveling circuses, wild animals are held captive for life in small cages and are beaten into submission with weapons
After the Council meeting, several elected officials bill joined activists on the steps of City Hall for an impromptu rally to celebrate the historic vote. NYC Council Member Corey Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, remarked on the historic significance of its passage: “We’re going to look back on this day and all of the hard work that has gone into it and see it as a seminal moment – – when the largest municipality in the country said, ‘Enough! This law is a step for a more just and humane New York City and society.”
Elected officials and animal advocates in NYC staged a rally at City Hall and testified at a public hearing in support of a bill to ban wild and exotic animals from circuses.
In 2016, Ringling Brothers eliminated elephant acts from its circus, but the company continues to use tigers, camels and other exotic animals. Other circuses that travel to New York, such as Universoul, continue to use elephants. Cole Bros., another company that used elephants in its circus, went out of business in 2016 due to diminished attendance and show cancellations in Long Island and New Jersey.
Elephants and tigers among the many animals beaten into submission by circus “trainers.”
At the public hearing, City Council Member Corey Johnson, a co-sponsor on the bill, said “We’re probably going to look back on this [wild animals in circuses] years from now and say, ‘Why were we comfortable with that?’ In the largest city in the United States, I think we need to set the tone and example for the rest of the country.”
NYC Council Member Corey Johnson testifies in support of bill to ban wild and exotic animals from circuses
Dozens of cities and countries around the world have banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Animal rights groups in the United States say they will continue to protest until all circuses retire all of their wild and exotic animals.
If you live in NYC, please ask your Council Member to co-sponsor Int. 1233 to ban wild & exotic animals from performances in NYC.
In a country with dozens of elephant camps masquerading as sanctuaries, one spot in Thailand stands out as the real deal — Elephant Nature Park, a refuge for dozens of elephants rescued from logging concessions, the entertainment industry and land mine explosions.
Most of the elephant camps in Thailand allow visitors to ride the animals, a sign that they are beaten into submission by “trainers.” Elephant Nature Park, on the other hand, prioritizes the needs of the elephants by rehabilitating them, incorporating them into a herd and providing them with as natural an environment as possible.
Nosey the elephant and Lolita the orca, longtime symbols of the cruelty of animals in entertainment, have also also become symbols of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) failure to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Lolita being used as a surfboard; arthritic Nosey gives rides to unsuspecting children
After years of protests, petitions and lawsuits, activists nationwide are now using a viral video to demand that the USDA liberate Lolita and Nosey on the grounds that the harsh conditions of their captivity violate the AWA.
Nosey, a 30-year old elephant who was captured in Zimbabwe when she was two, has been held captive by the Liebel Family Circus since 1988. In spite of her crippling arthritis and chronic skin disease, Nosey is forced to give rides to paying customers at flea markets and fairs across the country.
Under threat of bullhook, Nosey is forced to give rides in spite of her eye infection and arthritis
Advocates claim that the circus owner, Tom Liebel, and his employees have beaten Nosey into submission with bullhooks, a sledge hammer and shovels and that the USDA has cited Liebel nearly 200 times for violations. In spite of the violations, abundant evidence of abuse and a veterinary report stating that Nosey is “suffering, permanently disabled and crippled,” the USDA has refused to revoke Liebel’s license to exhibit Nosey and use her for rides.
Violation of AWA
Lolita, an orca who was captured off the coast of Washington in 1970, has been held captive in the nation’s smallest whale tank for 45 years. Until 1980, she had an orca companion, Hugo, who reportedly committed suicide by pounding his head against the side of the tank. For the past 35 years, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors, such as hunting, diving and swimming in the open water. Her tank is just 20 feet deep.
Lolita’s captivity at the Miami Seaquarium is not just cruel; it is illegal. Palace Entertainment is violating the AWA in three ways: Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet minimum size requirements; she has no shade to protect her from the sun; and she does not have a killer whale companion.
Lolita is longer than the tank is deep.
In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Lolita as endangered because she was taken from the protected Southern Resident Killer Whale population. This historic decision has provided legal ammunition to the groups that have sued the USDA for renewing Palace’s license in spite of its AWA violations. If the court rules in favor of the advocacy groups, then Lolita could be released to the Puget Sound where she would be rehabilitated in a coastal sanctuary and, if possible, released to her pod. Lolita’s mother, 86, is reported to be alive.
Robin Jewell, the producer of the historic Miracle March for Lolita in January, created a video with advocates around the country asking the USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act. Please hold the USDA accountable for its failure to protect Lolita and Nosey by helping to make this video go viral.
Thanks to Blackfish, the world has awakened to the plight of whales in captivity, and thousands of people are fighting to outlaw it. The “Blackfish effect” also appears to be benefitting imprisoned elephants, who, like whales, are highly social and intelligent mammals who suffer in captivity. In fact, advocates around the world are running campaigns to rescue elephants who are being held alone in horrific conditions:
TANYA IN TARGU: Tanya, a 37 year old female elephant who was captured in the wild in the 1970s, is being held captive in a desolate, indoor, concrete pit at the Targu-Mures Zoo in Romania. And she has been all alone for 20 years, in spite of the fact that the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria requires that zoos house female elephants in groups. Her mental anguish is on display in this video.
Please sign the petition demanding that the Executive Director of European Association of Zoos and Aquaria send Tanya to a sanctuary
NOSEY IN NORTH AMERICA: Nosey, a 30 year old elephant who was captured in Zimbabwe when she was two, has been held captive by the Liebel Family Circus since 1988. In spite of her crippling arthritis which is captured in this video, Nosey is forced to give rides to paying customers at flea markets and fairs across the country. Advocates claim that the circus owner, Tom Liebel, and his employees have beaten Nosey into submission with bullhooks, a sledge hammer and shovel handles and that the USDA has cited Liebel nearly 200 times for violations. In spite of the violations, abundant evidence of abuse and a veterinary report stating that Nosey is “suffering, permanently disabled and crippled,” the USDA has refused to revoke Liebel’s license to exhibit Nosey and use her for rides.
Simpon’s co-creator Sam Simon has used his fortune to liberate animals.
Please urge your member of Congress to take action for Nosey and sign the Change.org petition demanding that the USDA confiscate her and relocate her to a sanctuary. On June 26th, hundreds of activists will descend upon the USDA in Washington, D.C. to protest the agency’s reckless disregard for Nosey. Robin Jewell, the organizer of the historic Miracle March for Lolita, has announced a March for Nosey that will take place at the USDA office in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 23rd in 2015.
MALI IN MANILA: Mali, an elephant captured in Sri Lanka who has been confined to a concrete enclosure at the Manila Zoo for over 35 years, is “so lonely that she holds her own tail,” according to Jolie Nicole Shanoian, an activist who administers the Facebook page about her plight. The Manila Zoo, which is determined to keep Mali in her small, barren pen that has no vegetation or water for bathing, insists that she would not survive the transport to the Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand, which is prepared to rescue her.
Please sign the Change.org petition demanding that the Mayor of Manila release Mali to Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary.
Liberating elephants from captive and exploitive settings is possible. In 2005, the Detroit Zoo relocated Winky and Wanda to a sanctuary (PAWS), saying “despite our best efforts, we saw the unfortunate results of them living in an unnatural physical and social environment.” In 2014, Sunder, an elephant who was severely beaten and chained for 7 years at a temple in India, was taken from his abusers as a result of a court order and transported to a sanctuary.