Stop Circus Suffering

Highlights from the Summit for Elephants 2010

Representatives of the Oakland Zoo, Detroit Zoo, ARK2000, and Active Environments outlined the steps that were being made to improve the lives of captive elephants – whether in zoos or sanctuaries.

This included protected contact and ending the use of bullhooks and improving the environments the animals lived in.

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American Zoo Association guidelines were dissected with Steve Carter of Detroit Zoo (which took the courageous, ethical decision no longer to house elephants and handed the animals to PAWS) contrasting the detail in guidelines for primates against the lack of guidance for elephants. The role and effectiveness of the USDA was also examined.

There was universal agreement that whilst certain aspect of the zoo environment could be fixed, or at least significantly improved, the travelling circus environment would always seriously compromise welfare and lead inevitably to animal suffering.

Jan and Tim then gave a presentation on the Bolivia campaign entitled “The Perfect Storm: How Bolivia banned animal circuses”. This reviewed the ADI investigation and campaign that led to Bolivia banning animal circuses in 2009. This was followed by a report on the progress towards the relocation to the first animals – five lions and baboon – to be handed to ADI following the ban.

A short video presentation showing the early ADI investigation, the campaign, and progress on the rescue was greeted with rapturous applause.

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Later in the day, ADI Vice President Tim Phillips presented a round-up of progress on legislation to ban animal circuses around the world.

With legislation before Parliaments and in some cases at an advanced stage in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Greece, Portugal, Norway, and the threats to the Austrian ban, the round-up was a testament to the staggering impact of the ADI Stop Circus Suffering campaign.

As a case study, Jan then gave an outline of the 18 year ADI campaign to secure a ban in the UK, highlighting the ADI investigations, like the one of Mary Chipperfield Promotions that led to convictions for cruelty; the broken promises; the passage of the Animal Welfare Act; the machinations that had derailed progress; and the ADI investigation of the Great British Circus in 2009 that had stimulated fresh Government action. Our shocking footage from inside the circus was screened – it was especially poignant in an elephant barn where such abuse was unimaginable.

It was especially relevant as that morning the UK Government had revealed that in its public consultation, a huge 94% had backed a ban on the use of Wild animals in circuses and ADI were due to meet the Minister the following day.

The following day, Jan and Tim gave the Summit an outline of ADI’s US investigations and circus campaigns which included a sneak preview of a moving new video due for launch in the near future with new footage from the USA. Debbie Leahy of PETA then talked through horrific photos of baby elephant training handed to them by a former circus worker and footage from 2009 showing violence towards circus elephants in the US. Both organizations showing that the vast body of evidence against circuses continues to grow.

This was followed by Pat and Ed of PAWS outlining the threats to bull elephants and their efforts to save them – a subject of special interest to ADI, who with PAWS areworking to bring Benny the elephant to ARK2000.

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During the Summit, ADI’s commitment to fund construction of the enclosure for the Bolivian lions at ARK2000 and then to support the animals there for the rest of their lives was generously acknowledged by PAWS.

Jan, Tim and ADI project vet Mel Richardson took time out to visit what will become a spectacular home for these lucky lions – see full report.

On the final day, presentations on threats to wild elephants in Thailand and Africa, were followed by an outline by Professor Patricia McEachern, Ph.D. of the Dorothy Jo Barker Endowment of Animal Rights at Drury University. Professor McEachern revealed how the generosity of former TV presenter Bob Barker had established this cause which examined animal rights at the university. A surprise highlight for the ADI team was when Professor McEachern concluded the list of course topics by saying that the work of Animal Defenders International would from now on be included.

A lengthy and wide ranging open forum then concluded the three day event, with the attendees emerging from the barn into the bright sunshine to see Nicholas the elephant thoroughly enjoying being hosed down – a fitting end to an impressive and important conference.

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