Your Guide to the Reality of Animal Circus

"The academic panel concluded that there appears to be little evidence to demonstrate that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses is any better or worse than that of animals kept in other captive environments" - Executive Summary of the DEFRA Circus Working Group 2007

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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Animal Rights - Earning at all levels

Series 1928 or 1934 $10,000 bill, ReverseImage via WikipediaFew people who face the Animal Rights movement on a regular basis need to be told that their enemy is a well-funded one. Essentially these organizations and "charities" make their money from campaigning against animal businesses. Whereas animal businesses lose time and money fighting back. It has always been an extremely lopsided affair - a little like the battle between large complex organisms like mammals, birds, reptiles and fish against fleas, mites and tapeworms. One side tries hard to ignore the other, but slowly has its resources sapped by the relentless attack of the other. The other side thrives and prospers on the very existence of its enemy.

Anyway, the fact that Animal Rights organizations make a lot of money at the top isn't news. We know that the Humane Society of the United States has accumulated net assets of over $162m at the end of 2008 and that PeTA's 2004 income was over $28m, but there has rarely been news of any potential pay-off for their foot soldiers. The duped, the naive and the fanatical who donate their cash, stage their protests and lobby politicians, the media and anyone else their favoured organization points their finger at are only normally "rewarded" by the experience of being a part of a cause. Now the Animal Defense Fund wishes to change this.

Anyone can earn $10,000 for information that leads to the prosecution of the trainers of Tai the star elephant of 2011 circus film "Water for Elephants". Although animal rights groups have other entertainment squarely in their sites, they understand that the film industry is a far larger opponent to take on than animal circuses. However, here they have two for the price of one. The fact that a film depicts an animal circus in a reasonably positive light and uses an elephant (a very emotive symbol) makes it a perfect target for groups. Animal Defenders International supposedly released footage of animal cruelty being inflicted on the elephants trained by the owners of Tai back in 2005. Although this heavily edited film, complete with sad music and leading titles doesn't really reveal much beyond a subjective view of animal cruelty, and it is hardly a matter for concern compared to the plight of many endangered species in the wild or the far wider spread examples of cruelty happening to pets in homes all over the world, clearly ADF feels they can spare thousands of dollars in order to bring this single case forward.

There's a good reason for this, one might speculate. The site of an abused elephant is far more newsworthy and emotive topic than the real issues regarding animal cruelty. Therefore it raises more funds more those involved in the Animal Rights movement. Meanwhile this large cash incentive is enough to urge more than your average fanatic to get going with their phone camera or to "find" evidence. When you consider this situation consider our current culture of amateur filming, blogging, vlogging and sharing multimedia. Think about the huge industry made up by amateur filming. Before we even get into more abstract ways to make money out of footage of people willing to risk life and limb in "Jackass" imitations, there are hugely successful television programmes the world over that pay members of the public £250 for their footage. Most of us have figured out that a good number of these clips are set up - it's a bit of an open secret shared by us all. Now consider the huge cash pay-off an individual - in a time of financial crisis - can get in order to "produce" evidence on elephant abuse. Think of all the riggers, sparks, caterers, cleaning staff, grips, extras and everyone else who work on a film set. How easy would for them to convince a temporary elephant groom to set up a scene of abuse? How easy would it be for a non-groom to do the same?  

With special thanks to Gail Wilmot for sourcing the ADL press release. 

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