Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Sad Digression

I planned to post my first attempts at butterfly photography this week (they're still coming; you don't get off that easy).  But after being disconnected for a few days with the flu, I came back online this morning to a very sad piece of news.  Sad, but not unexpected or unpredicted.

Those of you who have checked out my other blog, Books and Beasts, will know that I've written a couple of times about wild animals in entertainment.   In fact, a piece I wrote earlier this year about elephants is probably my most viewed blog post. But the abuse goes on.

A number of news outlets are reporting this week that a female elephant, named Sarah, collapsed Sunday night outside the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA, following a show.  What makes this case particularly upsetting is that Ringling Brothers was cited earlier this year for "failing to adequately treat Sarah for a pus-like discharge present during urination". (According to the Huffington Post quoting both USDA documents and eyewitnesses from Animal Defenders International.)  Sarah is 54 years old, and has been owned by Ringling Brothers for 43 years.  She was captured in the wild in Asia in 1957.

Animal Defenders International has released this video of Sarah.


I have had my own experience with how disingenuous the Ringling Brothers people can be.  (See Tears for Elephants for more details.)  They want to present themselves as wholesome family entertainment -- and even as supporters of conservation -- but they're not.  They're an outmoded form of entertainment built on crass exploitation and cruelty to animals.  It's no more wholesome or acceptable than dog fighting. And it needs to stop.   Now.  (You can check out the Huffington Post article, or Animal Defenders website, or my previous article for more details.) 

This topic is especially apropos for those of us in Western Washington, because in just a couple of weeks -- on Septermber 1st through 5-- Ringling Brothers  will be in Kent, Washington, at the ShoWare Center.  Then they will be in Everett, WA at the ComCast Center on September 5-11.   We should certainly encourage Kent and Everett not to support Ringling Brothers

I am asking all my readers to take action -- and speak up for Sarah and others like her.  To start with, you can urge Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to take action.  Sara should be taken away from Ringling Brothers and sent to an animal sanctuary where she has a chance of getting the medical care she needs. 

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, USDA
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington DC 20250
phone (202) 720-3631
fax (202) 720-2166

But rescuing Sarah is only the beginning.  The use of wild and exotic animals in entertainment needs to be ended.  One way to help bring this about is by helping to educate people about the problem.   And by encouraging our local governments and events centers not to host these events.

You can contact the ShoWare Center, to let them know how you feel about Ringling Brothers coming to our area, by calling 253-856-6777.   

You can also contact the city of Kent by calling the Mayor's Office at 253-856-5700 or the City Council's Office at 253-856-5712. 

Here are some sites to check out for information before you call or write, so you can be as specific as possible in your complaints:

PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) in Lynwood, WA.
Born Free USA
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (this one is guaranteed to make you feel hopeful again)

And information on local protests against the Ringling Brothers shows can be found at NARN (Northwest Animal Rights Network)

Please do whatever you can to help Sarah and others like her.


If you like Birdland West, you might also want to check out our sister blog Books and Beasts, which focuses on reviews of books about animals and related topics.

(Many of the original photographs featured on Birdland West are available for sale as art quality prints.  You can check out all of our offerings at  If you see an image here that does not show up on our Imagekind site please contact me directly and I'll let you know about availability.)

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