Monday, May 18, 2009

Episode 18 Circus Protest

Episode 18 Circus Protest, about an elephant being mistreated by a circus in New Zealand, animal rights etc.

Hi, welcome to another episode of Jay Wont dart's podcast, where I talk about stuff that interests me, and maybe you'll find interesting as well.

This episode, Im talking about animals in circuses, in particular one elephant kept by the Loritz circus which is traveling around New Zealand, that stopped by Invercargill where I live and that I protested with an animal rights group, SAFE. SAFE stands for Save Animals From Exploitation.

I have a few sound clips, as usual, to play throughout the episode.

The elephant is called Jumbo, after the famous elephant like a hundred years ago, I hate the name and from now on I'll try and call her Mrs elephant, I just prefer it to bloody Jumbo, shes a very pretty animal, not some big fat slob. Jumbo was a famous male elephant about a hundred years ago, the most famous elephant of all. He died when a train crashed into him, some bizarre accident. Jumbo's not a girls name, Mrs Elephant is.

I decided to make this episode after seeing the circus had made a fake website, pretending to be written by the elephant, saying how nice all the circus people treat her, how she likes living with the circus, being made to live in a trailer and get taken all over New Zealand. I'll play a clip of that now.

What a load of bullshit, if you see her, its pretty obvious how upset she is. Mrs Elephant, like most elephants kept by circuses, is known to sway, she rocks side to side. No elephant in the wild has been seen swaying, its what they do when they are incredibly bored. I have sound taken from a video of Mrs Elephant swaying, I'll play that later.

I heard about the circus coming to Invercargill about a week before it arrived, and when I heard about the Elephant coming, I was pissed off, I hate the idea of animals forced to perform, especially when they have to live in a trailer and get moved all around New Zealand. When I were little, I always wished Invercargill would get a zoo, so I could go and see exotic animals every weekend. But, now I've learned more about how animals are treated, and thought about it, and I wish that zoos would just shut down outright. If you want to learn more about how zoos treat animals, watch the movie Earthlings, its all about animal abuses really, it has sections about zoos and circuses, it shows behind the scenes type footage, where the animals are beaten to make them perform, elephants being made to stand on top of each other, and move about in set patterns, when they dont do what the trainers want, they get shocked with a prod, its like a big tazer. In the footage we see, they elephants scream out, and the trainers talk about being strong around the animals. There's subtitles to make it clear what the main trainer is saying, when they dont do what they are meant to, the trainers are told to really beat them, and they will scream. The main trainer says "when you hear that screaming, then you know you've got their attention a little bit." and that they cant beat them on the road, only during the awful training away from the public. Main trainer guy says something like "they're gonna do what I tell them, thats just the way it is".

Other scenes to do with zoos and circuses in Earthlings show other animals like tigers getting hit, I dont get why the large animals that could easily kill people put up with it, someone told me that they are so beaten down, that they just put up with it, they are so used to the misery thats their daily lives, that they dont feel like they can do anything about it. Earthlings also shows what happens when circus animals snap, and rampage through the circus, one video thats very moving to watch is of an elephant, one part has an elephant with people riding on some giant ornate saddle on its back, it starts knocking over ramps and ladders, people in the circus run for their lives from the seating. It could be the same footage, an elephant without anything on its back finds its way out of the circus tent, and runs out into the streets. On the way, some guy tries to shut a chainlink gate on the elephant, it just taps the gate the guy was holding shut and he gets knocked backwards. When the elephants on the street, it just walks around upset and probably very scared, people are yelling and shouting at it, and the police are trying to kill it. They fire bullet after bullet, it doesnt look like anything really hurts it, its just so big and strong that normal bullets that would easily kill people, dont seem to hurt it that much. There are vigilantes shooting at it too, normal people who act like they are saving the world by killing this elephant thats escaped from its abuse, some woman is screaming something like "die you stupid animal" at it. It finally goes down, I dont know how long it took, the footage jumps a bit I think, it stumbles down and crashes against a parked car, setting off car alarms. It kinda flails its head about a bit, you can see blood on its head, before it finally just lies outright.

I would have thought that circuses would HAVE to have a giant tranquilizer gun, able to take an Elephant out very quickly from one single tranq bullet, it just makes sense that they should prepare for the worst, as insurance. Instead, this elephant seems to just do whatever it wants, being so panicked, its just trying to get away from all its problems. Who knows how many people, with how many guns, shooting who knows how many bullets, to finally kill it. It should have been tranquilized, if anything bad happens, the keepers should have been able to knock it out, it would just lie down and go to sleep for an hour. Then it could have been put back into the circus once its calmed down, being realistic, I'd rather the elephant was alive in the circus, with a chance of being set free again, than shot dead in the streets with people yelling at it to just die already.

I'll now play a clip from one of my vegan friends, Lyndsay.

I seem to remember another elephant dying in Invercargill, dammit, cant find any news stories, I hate that not all news stories are easy to find online. It ate poisoned hay, the food had gotten wet, and had bacteria or mould growing in it, the elephant died. The way I remember it, the elephant was buried at the Gala street reserve, where the circuses go, its a large grassy public area.

The circus that brought this latest elephant here, Mrs Elephant as I call her remember, is Loritz circus. Loritz is a fairly new circus, it was formed when a previous circus closed, the Loritz circus people bought many of the things used by the prior circus, including the elephant keeper Tony Ratcliffe and Mrs Elephant. She was to have been sent away to some sanctuary in Australia, the elephant keeper was going over with her for a few months, to settle her in. He even admitted it would be better for her to be with other elephants. But, obviously money talked, and the bullshit walked right off to the bank, as he joined the new circus with her. Technically the new circus owns Mrs Elephant, Tony Ratcliffe just works for them, but hes been with her for decades now, so they are pretty much tied together. I'll play a newstory clip I read before I protested, I found out as much as I could about the circus before I protested. This is a very interesting clip, it talks with Ratcliffe about his life, hes a shady sounding guy. Listen to all the ways the reporter makes fun of him, some are pretty obvious and would have hurt his feelings if he read the published article.

I would have protested by myself about the elephant being kept the way she is, trucked about the country in a metal box really, forced to perform, no other elephants around her, it must be very lonely. But I found out about SAFE, Save Animals From Exploitation, who were arranging nationwide protests, and I joined the Invercargill protests. Very cool, it was awesome to meet other people pissed off about circus animals. I would have just stood over the road from the circus by myself, maybe with a cardboard sign, chanting something like "dont be a smelly runt, set free mrs ele-phunt" and "dont be a dumbo , set free jumbo", dammit, I said the crappy name they call her.

I'd shown up before the SAFE people, wearing a t shirt with Alex, the African Grey parrot on it, the bird that could talk and describe objects in detail. So I guess I looked like an animal rights kinda dude. I walked through the circus tents, and took some photos, including some of the elephant. I got found out by Ratcliffe, the old elephant keeper, he wandered over as I took a photo of the elephant, he said something like "you animal rights", I knew he was onto me, I muttered something like "not right now" or something, and he told me to get the hell out of there. He said if I showed up again, "they'd be trouble". I was pretty freaked out, I was alone in the middle of the circus, just taking photos of the elephant. Lots of scary circus folk looking at me, and I'd read before about how Ratcliffe killed a man with a tent peg. He was inside the elephants pathetic area, a small fenced off bit for her to walk around in.

Above the fence is an electric wire, to stop her from reaching over. Its bullshit, it makes me very sad just thinking about the electric wire, I saw Mrs Elephant snaking her trunk about, it moved like a snake would, I didnt really know they were that flexible, it looked like it could tie itself in a knot, she would reach out to where the wire was, but back off before touching it, I just know she must have been shocked by it before. Elephants trunks are so sensitive, so clever, they touch each other with their trunks, they breathe through it, suck in water, blow it out, they use it like we use our hands. There she was, too afraid to get near people because she would get shocked.

It was kind of weird how she came over to me too, she would go and walk nearer to anyone who was around the fence, I was the only person there at the time. She felt pretty big as she came over, I was a little scared! I just had time to take one photo, before Hitler, I mean Tony Ratcliffe got rid of me. He told me if I showed up again, there'd be trouble. I waited over by the Queens Park fountain for the rest of the SAFE people to show up.

When everyone else arrived, I put on a blue SAFE vest and helped hold banners. We got quite a few cars to honk in support, and one or two abusive people, nothing serious. Some old bastard came out and had a go at one of the SAFE members, he said something like "get out of here" and "get a real job". Um, grampa, I know it must be real hard living off our tax money, but its saturday afternoon, most people dont work saturdays, oh, but I do, I'd just finished work, and was protesting in my own time. Crazy old bastard.

I asked George and Sharon, from Invercargill SAFE to record something for me to use. Im really pleased I got these clips.

Thank you so much for appearing on my podcast.

The circus people took our photos, some creepy looking gypsy-ish woman was hiding behind the circus vehicles, taking photos, probably to stop us from getting entry to a circus performance and causing hell inside. We had some gruff looking circus dudes stare over at us, like they wanted a fight, but the circus people left us alone.

I asked all my friends to drive past and honk their car horns in solidarity, my friends Wiriya and Allison showed up and honked for me which was really cool.

I've got another clip, this is from CTV, a local christchurch tv channel I think, it has an interview with SAFE and the circus.

I've heard the circus downplay SAFE a few times, they've said things like 48,000 people went to the circus in the South Island, and that there were just 48 protesters, which I dont believe for a second, and also that SAFE complains a lot but havnt any real ideas about what to do for the elephant. Loritz circus says that they have asked SAFE directly for what they want done, and that SAFE couldnt come up with a good home for Mrs Elephant. But thats BS, in the clip I played before SAFE mention the sanctuary that the circus itself knows about, as Mrs Elephant was to be sent there, before the new Loritz circus brought her from the circus that shutdown. Loritz Circus know a good place for her, the elephant keeper was really going to send her there apparently, he was quoted in newspapers saying Mrs Elephant would go there, but instead shes stuck living in that crappy trailer, hauled around New Zealand. On the circus site written from the elephants point of view, someone pretending to be the elephant, it says that soon they will accept retirement donations for Mrs Elephant, can you believe that? They want people to give them money to send the elephant away, so she can finally be treated nicely. How do we know they will use the donations for sending her overseas? They dont have a target to reach or anything, its just stealing money off people who want to feel like they've helped the poor animal.

SAFE mentioned that they keep the elephant to make money, from people going to the circus to see her. Well, thats pretty accurate, Loritz circus must be pretty shitty without Mrs Elephant there. Their whole setup, they have a big tent, some little inflatable tents in front of that, one has a dwarf horse in it, that you have to pay two bucks to see the horse, I think theres a spelling mistake that we noticed to do with the dwarf horse sign. Then theres a couple lamas hidden out the back, and Mrs Elephant with her fenced off bit and trailer. The features in this whole circus are some african performers, they sound interesting, they do all the usual circus stuff, and a little girl who spins hula hoops around herself. I mean, good for her, she can do that better than I can, but im not going to a circus to see a little girl spin some hoops around her. The little girl did get a high placing on a New Zealand talent show, but its still not enough to keep me interested for more than a few seconds! Apparently Mrs Elephant doesnt perform anymore, god only knows what they mean by the word perform, but she still gets trotted out into the tent for about 5 minutes each show. It seems like she walks around the ring, and back out. wow! Thats worth all the hours in the trailer, and traveling from city to city! Without the elephant, lamas and dwarf horse, theres just a girl who spins hoops around herself, and some african performers. Sounds pretty lame.

So, I dont really expect the elephant to be sold anytime soon, unless maybe the other star attraction, hula hoop girl, also learns to juggle and ride a unicycle in clown costume, they'd need something else to fill in time.

My friend Elizabeth, from NZ Vegan Podcast was kind enough to provide another clip for my podcast, she also sent in a recording for my Vegetarian/Vegan episode, that I hope you'll listen to.

Thank you very much elizabeth. I also have a clip from Colin Sky, the leader of the VEGANZ yahoo chat group, that provides a way for New Zealand Vegans to stay in touch, we send emails to each other every day.

You can see photos from the Invercargill SAFE protests, we protested two saturdays in a row, on my bebo site. I've made a tiny url page for the link, so you dont have to type such a long URL, you can just go to www. tiny jumbo protest, no spaces of course. tiny url . com/ jumbo protest. Easy to remember, or write down. Please make sure you look at my photos, I have one of Mrs Elephant herself, in the bottom right corner you can see the angry elephant keeper, just out of frame, asking me if I were with "animal rights" and then telling me to get the hell out of there, or "there'd be trouble" I would have take lots more photos if I could have.

I've found a few news stories about the Loritz Circus getting in trouble while performing. At many locations, SAFE protesters held up banners, chanted and handed out pamphlets to anyone interesting in seeing how circus animals are treated. These protests were mentioned in many local newspapers. In Dargaville, the circus left a local park muddy and with holes, these had to be fixed before sports could be played. The local council was charging this cost to the circus, and they lost their bond money. In Nelson, the council admitted they had made a mistake allowing an elephant to be kept on public land.

In Dunedin, the circus was not allowed to have Mrs Elephant on council land, it has a policy against exotic animals being made to perform on its property. The circus had set up, and Mrs Elephant was to be moved from Dunedin City Council land. She was kept over at a pub near the circus, can you believe it?, on land near The Kensington pub carpark, until the council found out about this and had her moved again. The Circus pulled strings, and eventually had poor Mrs Elephant kept on the pubs carpark itself, which is privately owned by the pub. In this pubs carpark, this video was shot, you can watch it on youtube, I have the URL in the shownotes, or search "jumbo swaying" on youtube. You cant see the video obviously, but Jumbo is wobbling, or swaying side to side inside the trailer that the circus proudly shows off, it cost 300 thousand bucks you know! Inside, Mrs Elephant is chained by one of her front legs, it looks like one of those plastic covered bike lock chains, it looks like it would be very sore on her leg. A power tool starts up somewhere closely, and we see Jumbo try and look out to see where the scary noise is coming from, she can barely see out of the trailer, the chain around her leg is too short to let her move around very much at all, its probably a metre long chain if that. She can just rest her head against the opening, and move her trunk outside. She looks miserable.

The trailer the elephant is kept in is estimated by SAFE to have about 3 metres by 5 metres of space for poor Mrs Elephant, considering she is about 2 metres high alone, a lot longer than that, and weighs about 4 tonnes, its a tiny amount of space.

Thank you to all the people who submitted audio clips of themselves, thank you as well to those who emailed in what they wanted my artificial voice to read out.

With public pressure on circuses, we can make Mrs Elephants life better, and hopefully, some day soon, she'll be allowed to go to the Australian sanctuary , and live out her life, meet other actual elephants, and maybe even have a family.

Thank you for listening to my podcast episode about the sad life of Jumbo the elephant. I hope you look at the photos I took of the first Invercargill SAFE protest that I participated in, if you go to, you will find yourself at my bebo page, with some of my photos.

If you want to contact me, even just to say you listened, send an email to, j a y w o n t d a r t @, I'd appreciate it.

Have a super happy day, bye.

======= MY PHOTOS
( should work just fine ) SAFE campaign site CTV interview with SAFE, circus jumbo swaying video circus left holes in local park

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