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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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Protesters at Malaysia Consulate in NYC Demand Freedom for Lasah the Elephant

October 16, 2017 by Leave a Comment

The News

Animal rights activists staged a protest the Consulate of Malaysia in NYC to demand that the government liberate Lasah, a 37 year old elephant being held captive on Langkawi, an island off the coast of Malaysia that is popular with tourists.

Poachers kidnapped Lasah from the jungle in Malaysia approximately 35 years ago, taking him away from his mother and his herd. In the decades since, Lasah has been exploited by the logging and entertainment industries.  Today, he gives elephant rides at Langkawi Elephant Adventures. He has no elephant companions; he has no access to water for bathing; and he has been photographed after hours being chained by his legs.

Lasah at Langkawi Elephant Adventures

For the past year, the NGO Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia has been campaigning to compel the Malaysian government to relocate Lasah to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, where he could spend his remaining years unshackled and in the company of other elephants.  Upon learning of Lasah’s plight, animal rights organizations around the world have stepped in to lend their voice.  Protests have been also been staged at the Consulate of Malaysia in London, in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia’s capital) and in Los Angeles, California.

Activists around the world demand that Malaysia liberate Lasah from his captors, Langkawi Elephant Adventures, and move him to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary.

“Lasah represents so many animals trapped in the tourist industry. If he’s released, that can pave the way for the others,” said Hannah Morris, a British photographer who has been ignored by the Malaysian government since she began campaigning to free Lasah since 2012.  In May, 2017, Ms. Morris spent the night in a tidal sea cave and documented her experience in a video called TRAPPED to raise awareness of the plight of Lasah.

On October 11th, the legendary French actress Brigette Bardot sent a letter to Malaysia’s Environment Minister asking that he relocate Lasah to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. After being targeted with a Twitter campaign, removed the pages on its website promoting elephant rides with Lasah.

In order to give elephant rides, Lasah was “broken” by being beaten into submission by his captors (photo: Hannah Morris)

At the protest in New York City, activists confronted visitors entering and exiting the Malaysian Consulate, informing them about Lasah and asking them to join caring people around the world in boycotting Malaysia until the government gives its 37 year old prisoner a reprieve.

Activist protest on the steps of the Consulate of Malaysia until NYPD Counter Terrorism officials removed them

Your Turn

Follow the campaign to free Lasah on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sign the Care2 petition asking the Prime Minister of Malaysia to move Lasah to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary.

Post a comment under any of the posts on the Tourism Malaysia Facebook page, which has over three million followers.  Use the photo below.

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Over 100 Activists Protest & Celebrate Ringling Bros. Final Performance (VIDEO)

May 23, 2017 by Leave a Comment

The News

Activists from as far as California and Nevada traveled to New York to say “Good Riddance” to “The Cruelest Show of Earth” during Ringling’s last-ever performance.

Organized by PETA, LION and CompassionWorks International, the final protest, which took place at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, was not only a celebration but also an opportunity to encourage Ringling fans to abstain from patronizing other traveling circuses that beat wild animals into submission.

Animal rights activists celebrate the last-ever performance of Ringling Bros.

PETA began protesting Ringling when the organization was formed in the early 1980s. Since then, the animal rights group has staged protests at thousands of performances around the country, at times following the circus from city to city in a “Ringling Beats Elephants” van.

PETA followed Ringling around the country in a van in an effort to educate patrons

As undercover videos of circus trainers terrorizing animals emerged, many local animal rights groups around the country began to protest the circus and lobby their lawmakers in support of restrictions on the use of animals in performances.

In recent years, several municipalities in the U.S. banned the use of bull hooks, the weapons used by “trainers” to beat elephants into submission. Without bull hooks, Ringling could not use elephants in their shows. These bans, coupled with increasing public discomfort about the use of elephants, triggered Ringling to remove them from the show starting in 2016. This victory, celebrated by activists worldwide, was overshadowed by an even bigger victory – Ringling’s announcement in 2017 that it was shutting down the circus altogether. A representative from the Circus Fans Association of America told TheirTurn that the Ringling decided to end its 146 year run because of a substantial drop in revenues following the removal of elephants. Animal rights groups say that ticket sales declined because of the public’s increasing discomfort with the use of any animals in circuses.

Elephant “trainer” with Ringling carries bull hooks to scare animals into submission

The 100+ activists at Ringling’s final performance were greeted with hostility by some patrons, as expected. Parents were the angriest, as they don’t want their children’s circus experience to be tainted by the presence of activists wielding “Ringling Beats Animals” posters. While some patrons gave protesters the middle finger or shouted “Snowflake” or “Go Trump” while driving past the protesters, most just laughed nervously.

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Modern Day Slavery

August 4, 2016 by Leave a Comment

The News

A slave is defined as “someone who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.” Across the globe, wild animals are held captive in circuses and subjected to violent punishment in order to force them to perform for human entertainment. Their plight is chillingly similar to that of the victims of the African slave trade.

Like the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals are often kidnapped from their homes and held captive in chains and prison cages — when they’re not performing.  Circus elephants, for instance, spend 97% of their lives shackled. One investigation showed that, for weeks at a time, UniverSoul Circus kept tigers in cages so small that they could not make “normal postural adjustments.” The confinement causes many animals to go insane.

Chains are used to restrain non-human animals in just as they were to restrain humans during the African slave trade.

Chains are used to restrain animals in circuses just as they were to restrain humans during the African slave trade.

Like the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals work out of fear of punishment. Tigers and lions are whipped; monkeys and camels are beaten with sticks; and elephants are stabbed with bullhooks, devices that resemble a fireplace poker. Fear is the only way to entice wild animals to perform unnatural – and often scary and painful – tricks in front of noisy crowds.

Like the African slaves, circus animals are forced to work under threat of violent punishment.

Like African slaves, circus animals are forced to work under threat of violent punishment.

The bullhook is a weapon used to beat and control elephants in circuses.

The bullhook is a weapon used to beat and control elephants in circuses.

Like the victims of the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals often taken have their children taken from them. The kidnapped children are taught to fear humans at a very age. Baby elephants, for instance, are tied up; beaten with bullhooks; and shocked with police tasers. Young animals, especially lions and tigers, are often used for photo ops.

Baby animals are oftentimes taken away away from their mothers in circuses, not so differently from how families were separated at Southern slave auctions.

In circuses and slave auctions, babies are and were taken away from their mothers.

The plight of circus animals falls squarely into the definition of slavery.

Your Turn

To learn more about the plight of circus animals and what you can do to help them please visit Born Free USA.


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Animal Rights Activists Convince Potential Customers to Boycott Ringling

March 10, 2016 by Leave a Comment

The News

On the afternoon of Ringling’s final two shows in New York City, dozens of activists blanketed the entrances to the Barclay’s Center to educate customers about animal cruelty in the circus.  During the protest, several patrons changed their mind about going inside.

John DiLeonardo, the president of Long Island Organizing for Nature (LION) and an organizer of the protest, showed hundreds of people entering the circus a bull hook, the weapon used by Ringling “trainers” to beat elephants into submission.

John Di Leonardo on LION shows circus patrons a bull hook

John Di Leonardo shows circus patrons a bull hook

Roberto Bonelli, a grassroots organizer with Animals Battalion, said that activists staged protests every day that Ringling performed from February 25th to March 6th.

Ringling protest organized by Animals Battalion and LION

Ringling protest organized by Animals Battalion and LION

In 2016, Ringling announced that the company will terminate the use of elephants in its circus by May and relocate all of the touring elephants to its “Conservation Center” in Florida. Despite pleas from advocacy groups worldwide, the company refuses to send its 42 elephants to a sanctuary. Instead, Ringling intends to continue breeding the elephants and using them for cancer research.

Your Turn

To find out how to help captive circus animals, please visit Ringling Beats Animals.

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