Posts Tagged ‘animal abuse’

PEOPLE TO WATCH: LISA LEEMAN, DIRECTOR OF ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
 
 
 
ELEPHANTS IN CAPTIVITY: DOES ANYONE GET IT RIGHT?

A CONVERSATION WITH LISA LEEMAN
 
ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND

DIRECTOR OF ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
 
 
 

 
“At its heart, this film asks – demands – that we reconsider our relationship to all animals” – Lisa Leeman
 
 
“Elephants are human animals; their emotional makeup identical to our own, their caring and compassion probably surpassing that of humans. They mourn the loss of a loved one just as deeply as we do, so it is not difficult to regard and love the orphans as one would one’s own child.”– Dame Daphne Sheldrick, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
 
 
One of the best documentary films of 2011 – Roger Ebert
 
 
By Jonathan Arkin
 
 
 
EDITOR’S PROLOGUE
 
 
 
When Action Now+Network writer Jonathan Arkin mentioned that he’d like to interview his former USC film school instructor, Lisa Leeman, who had directed the recently released One Lucky Elephant, my immediate response was an enthusiastic “Wonderful!” I knew One Lucky Elephant was not only a moving human interest story, but an important film for its message about the emotional and physical perils of attempting to retrofit wild animals into our urban commercial world. This has long been a key issue for Action Now+Network, and has been expounded upon in numerous features on the site. This interview, I thought, would be another great opportunity to drive the point home. 

 
But what I didn’t know at the time, was that Leeman’s personal philosophy, which was shaped by the ten year gestation of the film, reflects much more than a view on the dilemma of bringing wild animals into our world. Rather, with this film, she “wants to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself”. This perspective enriches the experience of the film for the moviegoer on two counts: it gives us the impetus to revisit our deep connection to all sentient animal life, and it offers us a challenge to redefine our own humanity through a renewed respect for their nature, their habitats  and for their place on our planet.
 
In this context, Leeman’s interview is especially relevant because the elephants’  fate in our 21st century culture is so tragic. In the wild, they face near extinction at the hands of Chinese poaching cartels that have infiltrated the preserves and savannahs in central and east Africa, and the deforestation industries (logging and palm oil) in Indonesia. 
 
In captivity, with few exceptions, elephants are viewed as chattel, and despite their extremely high intelligence and their human-like range of emotions, they are subjected to a life that Arkin appropriately describes in the feature below, as animal slavery.  
 
The brutal methods used to capture and “tame” wild elephants for commercial work have been well documented both in film and in undercover video.   In the last few years, activist organizations have been especially vigilant in their exposure of inhumane conditions in which elephants are kept in zoos or trained for use in performing venues like circuses and films. Recent lawsuits brought against the notoriously cruel Ringling Brothers Circus and Have Trunk Will Travel, have graphically illuminated the abuses that take place.  
 
We know now that each ticket purchased for an exotic elephant trek or children’s ride, to a zoo or a circus or even to some films that feature animal “stars”, supports an industry that not only destroys the elephant family structure both physically and psychologically but it breaks the spirit of these gentle beings, just as surely as a life in chains and confinement would break a human.
 
An extraordinary exception to this heartrending scenario is the story of David Balding and his beloved Flora, so eloquently told by Leeman and her One Lucky Elephant production team. Balding adopted two year old, orphaned Flora, and  developed a remarkable and loving relationship with her – a relationship that inevitably forced him to ask the painful questions about their lives together and to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to value and protect her.
 
NOTE: One Lucky Elephant has been nominated in the best Documentary category for an HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) Genesis AwardBe sure to watch the Award show on Animal Planet May 5 at 4:00 p.m. EST/PST and May 6 at 8:00 a.m. EST/PST. If you haven't yet seen One Lucky Elephant, you can buy the DVD at this link.
 
Arkin’s enlightening interview follows below.
 
 
ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT: ILLUMINATING THE ESSENTIAL DILEMMA THROUGH A LOVING HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND

This past year has not been a particularly kind one to elephants.

While it was widely reported by the Indo-Asian News Service that 1,500 elephants were killed in 2011 for their ivory – 300 in the African nation of Cameroon alone  (other reports place the number at closer to 3000)– some of these large, majestic, intelligent animals are being subjected to a different kind of tragedy.  Various forms of captivity, or animal “slavery”, in which they are primarily used or  “trained”  to entertain audiences for profit, has been quietly decimating wild elephant populations in another way: through the forced attrition and confinement of herds.

Fortunately, there are some encouraging signs that their plight is being addressed: activist organizations, assisted by strong online support and visibility, are taking direct steps to assist elephants in danger.

But nothing is as effective as a good film with a strong message, as they would say at USC’s film school.

In late 2010, Action Now Network reported on documentary filmmaker Tim Gorski’s compelling How I Became an Elephant , his earlier The Elephant Lady and the efforts of animal rights advocates to move these captive elephants into dedicated nature reserves.

And now, documentary Producer/Director Lisa Leeman, a member of the faculty at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, has had her decade-long study of one of the more positive human-animal relationships ever caught on film embraced by a major television network, Oprah Winfry’s OWN.



 
Lisa Leeman
Director, One Lucky Elephant, and Adjunct Faculty, Cinematic Arts,
University of Southern California
 
 
“I believe that real social change happens from the heart up to the head, not the head down to the heart” – Lisa Leeman, Director, One Lucky Elephant


“I’ve always been drawn to make films that have positive consequences for the planet and its inhabitants,” Leeman told Action Now Network. “The films I’ve made reach people through their hearts – I believe that real social change happens from the heart up to the head, not the head down to the heart.”
 

“[It’s] hard to think that maybe I’d made a mistake to take this elephant’s life and merge it with mine…..We needed another life for her. She needed to be an elephant. Not a dog. Or a daughter.” – David Balding, in One Lucky Elephant.
 


The Los Angeles-based director-producer always knew that films had the power to move people if the story and imagery were compelling enough.

“We need to get the word out about elephants,” Leeman said about her film, One Lucky Elephant, which was produced by three enterprising women – Cristina Colissimo, Jordana Glick-Franzheim and Miriam Cutler. “Our film helps audiences realize that elephants are remarkably intelligent, social, emotional creatures, with personality, who experience joy, sadness, are playful, mourn, get silly, etcetera. The more people that see our film, the better for elephants!”



 
Flora with Balding on his wedding day
 
Ten years in the making and released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles, then on the Oprah Winfrey Network late in 2011, One Lucky Elephant tells the story of Flora, an orphaned African elephant who was “adopted” by a man named David Balding and trained to work in a small circus.  The film traces Balding’s growing relationship with Flora, leading to an extraordinary bond that becomes a paradox as Flora’s craving for freedom also grows.
 
“[It’s] hard to think that maybe I’d made a mistake to take this elephant’s life and merge it with mine,” Balding says in One Lucky Elephant. “I guess I’m not one hundred percent rational about this.”
 

THE BIG PICTURE FOR ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY: DOES ANYONE GET IT RIGHT? 
 
And this very struggle between what is right for the elephant and what seems right, raises what is perhaps the film’s dominant question: Does anyone get it right when making decisions about animals in captivity?

The obviously kind-hearted Balding is movingly honest in the film about his own mixed feelings, as he discovers that elephants face dangers from poachers even in so-called “protected” preserves.

“There really aren’t any good options,” Balding says in the film as he mulls over choices to leave Flora at various shelters and preserves. “I could give her to a zoo, but I want her to have a better life than that…we searched a lot of different places, and none of them seemed right for Flora.”

I learned how elephants live in the wild and how rarely elephants’ needs are met in captivity…watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds and belongs fully to neither.

The two “co-protagonists” in this “10,000 pound love story” were designed to draw attention to the plight of elephants not through didactic or melodramatic cinema, but by the creation of strong character and the deft use of camera work to magnify important emotions.
 


 
                    Baby Flora
 
 
Filmed in segments over that ten-year period, One Lucky Elephant follows the story of Flora and Balding’s poignant relationship. The film begins to focus on Balding’s realization that Flora would be better off in the wild, with her needs met and her instinctive social habits less curtailed. But as Flora’s career as a reluctant big-top star comes to a close, the dilemma over what to do, where to do it (and how), takes center ring.

Leeman calls One Lucky Elephant “a cautionary tale” about human manipulation of the natural world.

“As the story unfolded,” Leeman said in her director’s statement, “I learned how elephants live in the wild and how rarely elephants’ needs are met in captivity…watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds and belongs fully to neither. She was raised among humans, but they cannot fulfill her deepest needs; she needs to be with other elephants, but she hasn’t learned how to integrate with her own kind. She’s a fish out of water, whether with humans or with other elephants.”

One of the film’s more unsettling moments has Flora placed in a holding area near another, more dominant elephant. The sheer power that such large (10,000 pounds) animals exhibit becomes uncomfortably obvious as the two get confrontational–and yet another option for Flora has to be abandoned. A later effort proved more successful.
 

A CHARACTER DRIVEN APPROACH TELLS A UNIQUE STORY
 
Leeman, the director of innovative, intimate and probing documentaries such as Metamorphosis: Man into Woman and Out of Faith, says that she was not drawn into the project until actually coming into contact with Flora, and that the film did not begin to take its final shape until 2006, several years into the Balding-Flora saga.  That year, media features had just begun to turn the public’s attention to the deep familial and social needs of elephants in the wild and the damaging impact of human intervention on them. Tim Gorski released The Elephant Lady and an influential feature article in The New York Times Magazine called attention to an elephantine, human-caused version of post traumatic stress syndrome that had been taking hold in elephant communities.

One of the producers of the film – and its composer, who Leeman said was instrumental in getting the project off the ground and into the can – is Miriam Cutler, who says that her colleague, Leeman, is “driven” and “heartfelt” in her approach to this and other emotional subjects.
 
“Originally I was the one who knew about Flora, since I met her as a baby,” said producer Cutler, who at the time was also the music composer for the circus in which Flora performed. “In 2000, David said he was going to retire her and send her back to Africa, so I got really excited about capturing her story in a documentary film. Lisa was one of the first people I called, because I know that when she works on a film, she instinctively hones in on the heart and soul themes of a story. She is very heartfelt and intelligent about those issues.”

What we have come to understand is that we need to change the human dominance model of how we exist on this planet, this model which is not working. We must acknowledge that we are just one species in the web of life – recognize we are part of this greater ecosystem. Until we do that, we are going to be in trouble. –Miriam Cutler, Producer
 
While working on the film, we all learned so much about the harm that’s done to animals in captivity. They are incredibly sensitive creatures, and Lisa was adept at mining and articulating all of that.”

Producer Cristina Colissimo, who also coordinates relief and fundraising efforts for Flora’s continued care on behalf of the filmmakers, agrees.

“Lisa is probably the hardest working director I know!” Colissimo said. “She brings her editor's eye to her directing style, which is heaven for producers. She also does her homework, creating a palette of information and emotion to draw from when interviewing her subjects.”

 
 
 
“I felt from the start that Lisa was the only director to do this,” added Cutler. “Because I didn’t want it to be a manipulative story. I wanted to get it through the heart. I wanted this to be from the point of view of a real character who happens to be an elephant. We grappled a lot with how to tell this story, for me it was always very clear that this would be a heartfelt story in which people would learn about these issues by closely identifying with the characters, and Lisa was very on board with that from the beginning.”
 
The character-driven approach seemed to resonate with not only the women who drove the film forward, but with audiences.

“We didn’t feel there were any villains in the story, we wanted people to find their own way in,” Cutler said. “Flora is not just some animal. Lisa has this way of getting to the heart of things. It’s not black-and-white – there is a lot of gray area here. She gives the audience that access to the grey areas that are more nuanced. She is also analytical, highly developed in each area and is easily able to switch. She is my ‘Method’ director. She is able to stay with the heart of things, but she is still so thorough…trying to understand the different aspects of a story.”
 

WHY DOCUMENTARIES?
 
 

 
Flora at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
 
 
“It so interesting, this kind of work, it takes your entire life, so you want it to have meaning,” Cutler said. “That’s why people like us pick documentaries, ones that may have some impact.

What we have come to understand is that we need to change the human dominance model of how we exist on this planet, this model which is not working. We must acknowledge that we are just one species in the web of life – recognize we are part of this greater ecosystem. Until we do that, we are going to be in trouble. The more we try to control everything…to dominate, the more trouble we will get into.”

And the emotions that exist in the film seem to spill out to viewers as well, spiking fervent interest in the screenings of the film on OWN.

“Elephants are smart and emotional creatures,” Leeman said in a recent interview.  “One of my greatest joys connected to the film was when an audience member came up to me after watching the film and said he’ll never look at elephants in the circus or zoo the same way again.”

Now, with OWN airing her work, Leeman told Action Now Network about her personal feelings regarding animals in the wild, while she shares with her producing classes the pitfalls of distribution and the plight of women directors in a male-dominated business.

“Remember the quote attributed to Gandhi – ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’” explained Leeman. “[My films] offer different ways to look at the world, different ways to be in the world…meditation, non-reactivity, a practice cultivating peace, happiness, equanimity…all of which the world desperately needs, as well as compassion, and realizing that all beings on the planet are interconnected and part of the same fabric of the being. That realization decreases aggression and the ease of seeing other cultures and other religions as ‘the other’ and the lesser.”

Leeman’s strong connection to meditative practice has also led her to focus on extraordinary individuals who teach and share, thus leading her to make her most recent films (Crazy Wisdom and Yogananda) about great thinkers and socio-religious struggle.

THE HUMANE SOCIETY AND ROGER EBERT: ULTIMATE ACCOLADES
 
One of my greatest joys connected to the film was when an audience member came up to me after watching the film and said he’ll never look at elephants in the circus or zoo the same way again – Lisa Leeman
 
Adding to the recent buzz surrounding Leeman’s film, One Lucky Elephant was just nominated for best feature documentary of the year at the 26th Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) Genesis Awards, which recognizes films that carry animal-friendly themes.

“I’m thrilled and honored that One Lucky Elephant is nominated,” Leeman said. “The Humane Society does such good and important work…to improve the lives of animals in captivity and the wild – and it’s great that the Genesis awards can bring further attention to [these] issues. We’re in great company [with the other nominees]. Being nominated will bring added attention to the plight of elephants. There are over 600 in captivity in North America, and most are living in circumstances that don’t meet their physical or emotional needs.”

She adds that those who have seen One Lucky Elephant have changed both their behavior and perspective after seeing the film, making her realize how important the cinema can be in raising awareness.

“I’ve said that the films I tend to make are ‘sideways social issue films, i.e., not necessarily straight-on advocacy films,” said Leeman, whose Crazy Wisdom is now in theatres, “but nonetheless, films that get at opening hearts and minds and helping us to see other people and other creatures unlike ourselves with compassion, understanding and acceptance. We’ve had so many people tell us that after seeing our film, they see elephants in a whole new light, and will no longer support zoos and circuses that keep elephants in captivity.”
 
Another special honor for Leeman was a nod from the preeminent film critic, Roger Ebert, who called One Lucky Elephant one the best documentary films of 2011. The film was also selected to be part of the American Documentary Showcase, a U.S. State Department cultural program that showcases American nonfiction films in countries around the world.
 

A CHARACTER DRIVEN FILM THAT ASKS US TO RECONSIDER THE WAY WE REGARD AND TREAT ANIMALS
 
Leeman is quick to point out that, although she is concerned with the welfare of animals and that her work has made her re-examine relationships with her own pets, One Lucky Elephant was not meant to be solely a “social issue film” but instead was designed to be character-driven. She believes that we need to self-examine our profound influence on nature much in the way David Balding does in the film.

 “[The film] doesn’t have ‘experts’ decrying the mistreatment of elephants in circuses and zoos,” she said.  “But at its heart, this film asks – demands – that we reconsider our relationship to all animals. I’ve become interested in more than simply showing that circuses and zoos are not good environments for elephants – I want to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself. That perhaps our impulse to dominate our surroundings, whether it’s one species or our environment, is misguided.”
 
Film helps spread the message. Activism helps get the information out. And much as we recognize the remarkable long-term memory of elephants, the message is not one that will be easily forgotten.


 

Flora arriving at the sanctuary
 
 
 
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
 


Find out more about Lisa Leeman at  http://www.lisaleeman.com

 

 
FACT: Elephants are one of the most intelligent, sensitive, highly social species of land mammal on the planet.
 
FACT: Elephants live in families led by a matriarch; the young bull elephants leave the family at the age of 12 or 13; the females stay together as a family unit for life.  They roam in the wild up to 30 miles per day.
 
FACT: Elephants live up to 70 years in the wild. Their gestation period is 22 months, and calves nurse for up to two years.
 
 
FACT: Elephants grieve for days over the bodies of their dead.
 
FACT: Elephants cry, play, have incredible memories, and make joyful gestures to one another!
 
FACT: Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.
 
FACT: Elephants are essential to their ecosystems and are the major dispersers of seeds (in their dung) which replenish the Amazon forests.
 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES ON ELEPHANTS, SEE:
 
 
 
 

 
ATTN:  HOLLYWOOD FILM AND TV INDUSTRY 

 
 

Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  He currently lives in southern California.

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SAVING ELEPHANTS BY CUTTING THE ILLEGAL IVORY SUPPLY CHAIN

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

SAVING ELEPHANTS BY CUTTING THE ILLEGAL IVORY SUPPLY CHAIN

 

By Fred O'Regan

March 21, 2012

INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

 

The illegal ivory trade starts with the slaughter of elephants, continues with wildlife traffickers smuggling ivory across international borders and ends with the under-the-counter sale of carvings, signature stamps and trinkets, in marketplaces in Asia and online.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is working to cut the supply chain at all its major touch points by training rangers in anti-poaching techniques, lobbying politicians to take action to block the sale of ivory, collaborating with customs and law enforcement authorities to arrest black-market sellers and reducing consumer demand through out the world, especially China, one of the largest consumers of wildlife products including ivory.

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URGENT ISSUES: CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

WILD ANIMALS BELONG IN THE WILD

 

This is typical elephant behavior in the wild.  Notice the family size and their response, when the infant falls into the water hole.  Notice also the texture of the savanna and its suitability for the elephants' feet and weight.

 

 



CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: WORKING ELEPHANTS

 

 

Each time you take an elephant ride as a tourist seeking an indigenous experience, your dollars are perpetuating the untold suffering of an elephant.

 

Elephants are are highly intelligent, highly social animals that exhibit human-like behaviors : they care for their young, they are protective of one another, they (famously) grieve for days over the bodies of their dead. They live in matriarchal communities in which the females stay together for life. They can roam up to 30 miles a day.  Moreover, they are essential to their ecosystems – among other things, their dung carries seeds which cultivate the flora in the savannahs. 


Tragically, these peaceful gentle giants (vegetarians) are treated barbarically by humans for exploitive purposes: They are cruelly taken captive, separated from their relatives, and "broken" by humans who work them unnaturally in logging camps, or use them as spectacles in parades, circuses or in tourist ride attractions. 

 

 

This is a bull hook, the instrument used (liberally) to "break" and manipulate elephants for use on safari rides, and for other forms of entertainment. Photo courtesy How I Became an Elephant 


See Also:

 

TIM GORSKI: AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER SPEAKS OUT FOR ELEPHANTS

 

WEBSITE: HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT


ELEPHANT VOICES


 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: ZOOS AND CIRCUSES

 

ELEPHANTS ARE NOT ENTERTAINMENT.  

BOYCOTT ALL ANIMAL CIRCUSES:  NO EXCEPTIONS!

 

 

 

Most zoo conditions are inhumane environments for elephants.   Listen to this radio spot: it refers to pending decisions in the Auckland Zoo — but information is applicable to zoos in general

 


 

 

 

 

Worst, are the circuses, which often pull nursing calves away from their mothers, and use cruel methods to prepare them for their shows. Circus visitors have no idea of how these gentle animals are "trained" to perform for the big tent.  Do not patronize circuses that use animal acts.  A list of those circuses can be found in this link: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=425

Billie, the elephant, shown in the video above, has been consigned permanently to the Los Angeles Zoo, despite public efforts to have him moved to a sanctuary.

But there is still time to help other elephants in desperate need:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO 

 

HELP SEND QUEENIE TO THE PAWS SANCTUARY


TOP 10 REASONS TO FIGHT FOR ELEPHANTS IN ZOOS

 

THE TOP 10 WORST ZOOS FOR ELEPHANTS

 

 

TAKE ACTON TO HELP ALL ELEPHANTS NOW!  

 
 
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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: ANIMAL DEFENDERS INTERNATIONAL

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

 

 

 

                       

ANIMAL DEFENDERS INTERNATIONAL

 

BREAKING THE CHAIN OF WORLDWIDE ANIMAL ABUSE:

BUILDING A LEGISLATIVE CASE

TO SUPPRESS ALL FORMS OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY

 

 

"…after years of undercover investigations and campaigning throughout South America, ADI has secured the world’s strongest ban on animals in circuses in Bolivia. Then, working with the Bolivian government, we raided every circus and rescued every animal. A total of 29 lions were airlifted from squalid conditions in Bolivian circuses to sanctuaries in California and Colorado. It was an amazing feat!   ADI will provide for their lifelong care in their beautiful new habitats where these prides are finally living like lions."

 

 

 

Matt Rossell, Campaigns Director for the recently opened U.S. office of Animal Defenders International (ADI), is passionately describing Operation Lion Ark, ADI’s latest dramatic rescue in which 25 Bolivian circus lions were airlifted to a new life of freedom in Colorado.

 

“This was a part of our massive ‘Stop Circus Suffering’  campaign  where, after years of undercover investigations and campaigning throughout South America, ADI has secured the world’s strongest ban on animals in circuses in Bolivia. Then, working with the Bolivian government, we raided every circus and rescued every animal. A total of 29 lions were airlifted from squalid conditions in Bolivian circuses to sanctuaries in California and Colorado. It was an amazing feat!   ADI will provide for their lifelong care in their beautiful new habitats where these prides are finally living like lions.

 

Break the Chain’ is a U.S. based ADI campaign, launched last October, to empower grassroots animal advocates to educate their communities and push for legislation to protect circus animals. To this end, ADI is partnering with local animal advocacy organizations to arrange publicity and educational outreach across the United States.  Rossell is at the helm of the U.S. operation, based in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

ADI CREATES COMPREHENSIVE CAMPAIGNS TO END ANIMAL SUFFERING

Founded in 1990, ADI is an international organization, with offices headquartered in London, U.K., and satellite offices in Los Angeles and South America.  Their stated mission is to educate, create awareness, and promote the interest of humanity in the cause of justice, and the suppression of all forms of cruelty to animals; wherever possible to alleviate suffering, and to conserve and protect animals and the environment.   

 

A visit to the ADI website  reveals the breadth and depth of their purview, with major campaigns focused on use of animals in laboratory experiments, animals in entertainment, the fur trade, and more.  Their approach is comprehensive – and self contained.  Says, ADI’s President, Jan Creamer, “ We work at all levels, from start to finish of a campaign – from undercover investigations to scientific and economic research, publication of technical reports, through to public education, to drafting and securing legislative protection for animals.   We use our own photographs, video and research, and produce publications in-house. Our total production approach saves money and increases our outreach.”

 

Ringling Brothers Circus opening night – Los Angeles

Notice the large red gash above the elephant's ear.  What will it take to stop this abuse?

 

A BRILLIANT TRIUMVIRATE FOR COMPASSIONATE ANIMAL PROTECTION:   ADI, THE NATIONAL ANTI-VIVISECTION SOCIETY (NAVS) AND THE LORD DOWDING FUND FOR HUMANE RESEARCH (LDF)

In fact, ADI is one of three unique organizations that operate under the same corporate umbrella.  The ADI ‘s rescue campaigns are deeply grounded in scientific and medical research, which they advance on the global stage with the support of, and in concert with, the work of the  National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), and the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research (LDF).   All three organizations share the same management team, though only ADI is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization.  

 

Founded in 1875, and based in the U.K., the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is the world’s first and leading anti-vivisection group, working to expose the cruelty and futility of animal experiments all over the world.  Its humanitarian mission is outlined  in full on it’s website. 

 

The Lord Dowding Fund was founded almost a century later, in 1973, as a cutting edge research funding arm within NAVS.  Its mission is to advance non-animal scientific and medical research, i.e., research which will lead to the adoption of non-animal research methodologies, which will lead to replacement of animals used in education and training contexts and which will promote research to demonstrate that use of animals in research is harmful.  

 

The LDF website states that to date, about $3 million in LDF grant money (about 2 million pounds sterling) has been awarded to researchers working in fields ranging from microsurgery, toxicity testing of dental fillings, breast and lung cancer, product safety testing, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, cot deaths (SIDS), cataracts, kidney research, cell culture, computer-aided drug design, biotechnology, brain damage, computer teaching packages which replace the use of animals in education of students at school and university level. 

 

 LDF publishes a journal called New Science which highlights developments in research conducted without animals and features the work of their own grantees and other new developments in the field of non-animal research.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE USE OF ANIMALS IN SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS

Notwithstanding the superlative work done by NAVS and LDF, the subject of animal testing is highly charged, even for many die-hard animal advocates, and is worth an additional note here.  While it’s easy (a no-brainer) to inveigh against the use of animals for testing cosmetics, household products, or for high school and university biology experiments, for some people the issue can become more complicated when we talk about our long term heath and treatment of disease.   So often, the public is willing to close their eyes to the pain and suffering  inflicted on animals in exchange for an attempt, based on unreliable science, to increase our longevity.  And what, the reader might ask, are the viable alternatives?   What really is the best way to develop effective drugs for diseases which are the scourge of our lifetime – cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, anti-rejection drugs for transplants or even simple antibiotics? 

 

A research subject

 

Rossell, who worked undercover for two years in the Oregon National Primate Research Center,  has plenty of personal experience with animal research.  His response was enlightening.   “People “get” that bad things happen to animals in labs, but they don’t understand the extent to which these experiments aren’t necessary or don’t work.   The companies that profit from animal research want the public to believe that animal research works, that it is viable.  But the model is clearly flawed.  (Too often)…we see that drugs tested on animals and deemed, due to this testing to be safe in, are later pulled from the market because they go on to show harmful side effects in humans–sometimes even resulting in death. Animals are often used as models for diseases that don’t even occur naturally in the animal being experimented on, so similar conditions are created in the laboratory. Drugs, experimental treatments and  agents react differently in every species, and this fact is at the heart of the fundamental flaw in animal research.” 

 

In fact, the scientific publications support the observations from undercover work.  For example, discussion of  “species differences” which Rossell touched on above,  is relevant in this context.  Historically, for many scientists and regulatory bodies,  the testing of drugs on mice, rats, monkeys, dogs, and other animals was accepted.  NAVS and LDF argue that the biology of non human animals is different to that of humans, and that non human animals  respond differently to drugs and other substances  than do humans.   Therefore, animal testing is unreliable and can’t be predictive for humans. This, they claim, is not only a waste of animal lives, but it represents a danger to human health.

 

The truth is that some drugs that test safe in animals have serious side effects in humans, and too often, the experimentation doesn’t yield results that are relevant to human health.   The reader is invited to the NAVS website for plentiful persuasive evidence, . 

 

The bottom line is that animals – sentient, living beings — are forced to endure needless suffering and too often, an excruciating death for little or no return.  NAVS and LDF argue strongly that these animal lives have inherent value, and that there are better, more humane ways to conduct medical research, without the use of animals.

 

Rossell continues, “The question about alternatives to animal testing might be better stated: why don’t we put more of our limited research resources into alternative non-animal methodologies that get better results?  In the U.S. there is a lot of inertia toward change – we don’t have a (legislative) mandate for alternatives.  ADI has and will continue to work for legislation and public policy change toward better and more humane science.

 

WORKING TO BAN THE USE OF ANIMALS IN CIRCUSES, WORLDWIDE

Exposure of circus cruelty worldwide is a major element of the work of ADI, and an area in which they have had great success.  Their international work has resulted in the closure of circuses and in the introduction of laws which ban the use of animals in circuses on a country-wide basis, globally.   

 

“…Operation Lion Ark, for example was a true start-to-finish campaign, in which we worked at every level (with the Bolivian government)" says Creamer.   "…we deployed field officers undercover inside circuses, compiled scientific reports, drafted legislation and have worked to re-home the animals affected.  We are working on similar campaigns in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia.”   (NOTE:  News on the ADI website indicates that the President of Peru has just signed a law to ban the use of animals in circuses.)

 

ADI UNDERCOVER WORK IS LEGENDARY

In all their rescues, undercover work provides vital evidence for negotiating with legislators, and is a part of what gives the campaigns their “teeth”.    

 “Our studies have concluded that life for animals in circuses is one of deprivation and suffering – they are deprived of everything that makes their life fulfilling. Circus animals are taken away from their family groups, forced to do tricks that they do not want to do; forced to live in tiny, barren cages where they have to eat, sleep, and defecate all in the same space, or spend a large part of their day tied on short ropes. These animal care practices are common throughout the industry, worldwide. In addition, circus animals are frequently kicked, punched, whipped and beaten to make them obey.

 

Adds Rossell, “We also exposed the abuse of the last elephant forced to perform in a UK circus.  We secured video footage of her being severely beaten — this made headlines all over the country and reinvigorated the campaign to get wild animals  out of circuses in UK.  The public is now (famously) on board with this view.  We want to bring that momentum here to the US.”

 

ROSSELL’S BACKGROUND IN DEEP COVER

Rossell, himself, is no stranger to the subject of animal advocate investigations, and has spent a large part of his career working undercover in research labs, various factory farms and even once ran away with the circus to document animal abuse.

 

His life changed, literally overnight, when working a stint as a security guard at Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska.  Quite by accident, he came upon a litter of kittens crying piteously after undergoing brain surgery without anesthetic.  “Most of the surgeries were botched….the lucky ones died.”, he said.  But this experience led me in a new direction.  I began working with national animal protection groups doing investigative work.  I spent time on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse, I’ve been on all kinds of factory farms, a veal farm and industrial factory farms for turkeys. I worked for four months during the pelting season on an Illinois fox farm.  If people knew the truth, they would never consider wearing fur of any kind.  The only escape for these foxes from their miserable lives—going mad, running back and forth in tiny wire cages—was death by anal electrocution, which is the standard method for killing foxes in the industry. It is not even illegal, and all this suffering is  just for the sake of human vanity.

 

“It was very difficult, emotionally,” Rossell admits, “to work undercover in these environments.  But one of the most healing experiences for me occurred after working at the fox farm.  The farmer I worked for paid me in fox pups because he thought I wanted to start my own fur farm.  So my wife and I erected a huge enclosure to acclimate them to open space.  This was the first time in 15 generations that these animals were able to live naturally.  We could see clearly that these were not domesticated animals.  The first night we released them into the enclosure, they dug a den, and began to behave in every way like wild foxes.  There were a lot of challenges in rehabilitating them – but at the end of the summer we cut them loose and gave them their freedom.”

 

Earlier this year, Rossell presented for ADI at the first ever Anti-Fur Society Conference in Washington D.C. 


ADI undercover video of a fur farm in Finland.

"If people knew the truth, they would never consider wearing fur of any kind"–Matt Rossell

CAUTION:  EXTREMELY DISTURBING CONTENTS: NOT FOR CHILDREN

 

 

ANIMAL DEFENDERS U.S.A.: FOCUS ON ‘BREAKING THE CHAIN’

For the moment, however, Rossell is focused on building a grassroots constituency in the U.S. with the “Break the Chain” campaign, and in educating the public about what happens to animals used by the Hollywood entertainment community and in circuses nationwide.

 “We recently released footage of Tai, the elephant that appeared alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in the film, Water for Elephants, ….(we showed that she was) beaten and electro shocked during training, despite the fact that everyone involved went out of their way to stress that she was trained with kindness and positive reinforcement.  

The movie industry was very quick to respond that they were unaware – the American Humane Association was on set and awarded the film a ‘no animals were harmed’ disclaimer.  We aren’t pointing fingers at the actors and movie makers – everyone was given false assurances that there was no abuse, and the abuse happened far away from the set at the compound where Tai and four other elephants live in Perris, California.  We are saying the way to avoid colluding in this cruelty is to boycott films with animal actors.

 

HOLLYWOOD HAS AN OBLIGATION NOT TO GIVE FALSE ASSURANCES

 “The movie industry has the obligation not to give the public false assurances that the animals they use have not been abused.  In other words, they can no longer in good conscience state that animals were not harmed in the making of the film.”

ADI has brought a lawsuit against Tai’s owners, Have Trunk Will Travel, for defrauding moviegoers with the claim that no animals were harmed in their training for the film.

 

Undercover photo taken at Have Trunk Will Travel

 

Rossell continues, “The terrible truth is that elephants and other animals are routinely trained using pain, punishment and the fear of the next violent training session..  They are shocked with stun guns to get them to perform headstands and other demeaning tricks.   The bullhook is a weapon that is used to hit and ‘hook’elephants in sensitive areas– elephants don’t forget and they learn to fear the bullhook –which the trainers always carry as a reminder to make the animals  cooperate on the movie set or while performing in the ring.

Part of the ongoing campaign we’re working on now is to educate the movie-goers that there is no way to monitor the animals before they arrive on set and so the best solution for the compassionate public, is to avoid movies and entertainment that use animals.  Similarly unacceptable, abusive and often violent training tactics have been routinely observed by ADI and other organizations as standard practices across the entertainment industry. 

 

Protesting the Ringling Brothers Circus at Staples Center, Los Angeles

ADI’s overall goal here is to effect positive change within the entertainment industry through legislation and education, and eventually to end the use of animals in circuses and other forms of entertainment.  

Says Rossell,   “ Now, working with grassroots groups across the United States, ADI is raising public awareness about the hardships that these animals endure day in and day out in the traveling circus.  Through undercover investigations, we expose the suffering, and then we bring the campaign to the streets to change attitudes. Compassionate people vote with their pocketbook, and choose humane entertainment that doesn’t support animal cruelty. 

 “ADI has a 20-year history rescuing animals and securing lasting protectionfor them  by changing public policy and passing laws. But we are new here in the U.S., so we encourage people who care about animals to get involved, to go to our website, to sign up for the monthly e-news alerts, and help us make a difference for animals.  

In addition, keeping undercover investigators out in the field, and working for legislative change, is costly, and we rely on donations to do our work so please visit our site and make a contribution today.”

 

EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE CLASSROOM

Rossell has a degree in special education and says he loves to teach.  He is often invited to lecture at schools, at all grade levels, and, schedule permitting, is available to make guest presentations in classrooms in Los Angeles. “Creating a more humane world depends on educating and empowering young people. That is the way we will effect long term change for people and animals.”


CONTACT:

Matt Rossell

Campaigns Director
Animal Defenders International
6100 Wilshire Boulevard, #1150
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Tel:  
(323) 935 2234
Fax:
(323) 935 9234
www.ad-international.org
www.YouTube.com/AnimalDefenders
http://www.furstop.com

 

ANIMAL DEFENDERS USA MAGAZINE, SUMMER, 2011

 VOLUNTEER FOR BREAK THE CHAIN ACTIVITY


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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS

Monday, February 14th, 2011


  

 

 

 

CHANGING THE PARADIGM OF HUMAN-ANIMAL RELATIONS

 

A CONVERSATION WITH ANIMAL PROTECTION HERO AND TRAILBLAZER, 

 

FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, ELLIOT M. KATZ,  DVM 

 

 


Our mission is to end animal exploitation, cruelty, and abuse by protecting and advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals, as well as to raise their status beyond mere property, commodities, objects or things.

 

 

By Jonathan Arkin

 

Albert Schweitzer and St. Francis of Assisi may not be on the layperson’s shortlist of animal rights activists, but the forward-thinking pair ranks high on the scale for the multifaceted organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) and its founding president, Dr. Elliot Katz. 

For Katz and his influential animal advocacy organization, Schweitzer the humanist and St. Francis the missionary are two individuals among many who personify IDA’s mission.

 

A MISSION INSPIRED BY GREAT THINKERS

TO CREATE A MORE COMPASSIONATE WORLD

“I have devoted the latter part of my life doing everything in my power to change the way people see and act towards other species.” said Katz, who emerged from veterinary college at Cornell University with a mission.  Many great people have inspired me throughout the years, such as  St. Francis of Assisi and his powerful message.   'Not to hurt our humble brethern is our first duty to them, but to stop there, is not enough.  We have a higher mission, to be of service to them wherever they require it.'. 

As Founder and President of IDA, Katz has embraced the daring insights and  ideas of several great thinkers to fashion a credo of his own – one that drives society into a more responsible and humane way of thinking.  “Our mission is to end animal exploitation, cruelty and abuse by protecting and advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals, as well as to raise their status beyond mere property, objects, commodities and things.”


IDA PROGRAMS: A WORLDWIDE REACH

With programs and campaigns underway in Cameroon, Africa (where IDA operates its chimpanzee sanctuary), South Korea (working in concert with South Korean organizations), and ambulance services, veterinary clinics, and educational outreach in Mumbai, India, with more local efforts in Grenada, Mississippi (a 64-acre sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals), and with staff in locations from Colorado to Oregon to New York to Pennsylvania to California – IDA has emerged as one of the most progressive independent charities in America.  The mission is not only to rescue, advocate for, and provide sanctuary and veterinary care, but also to instill a deeper and more profound consciousness about other species, in captivity and in the wild.

And while expressing a great deal of respect for other animal-rights groups, Katz believes IDA is unique.


Feeding time for 140 resident dogs in Mumbai, India

 

IDA’S SIX DISTINCT PROGRAMS: ANIMAL PROTECTION, ADVOCACY, RESCUE, SANCTUARY,  HABITAT PROTECTION AND VETERINARY CARE

“To a great extent, it’s because I am a veterinarian that I try to be available, as best as funds will allow, to deal with and be supportive of issues others have taken on,” said Katz, defining what differentiates his organization. “We not only protect the rights of animals, but we are also an advocacy and a welfare organization as we give sanctuary to animals, and work to protect their habitats. That enables us to look at the broad picture. We do our best not to turn our backs on animals in need. When funds are available, we do everything in our power to help. Most recently, we helped animal victims in such disaster-stricken areas as Haiti, Chile, Brazil, and Australia. 


ONE VETERINARIAN’S “HORRIFIC” INTRODUCTION TO THE UNETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS

The long, compassionate road to action began in Ithaca, New York, when Katz was attending Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and found himself wrestling with the moral dilemmas of veterinary education.

“I saw adoptable dogs from shelters being mutilated and killed by inexperienced veterinary students being forced to do surgical procedures on animals, and teachers showing little or no regard for the dogs who were being mutilated. Katz said. “That’s how veterinary school started for me. The suffering and mutilation of healthy adoptable dogs was horrible. There was no sense of compassion or caring. What a bleak message it sent to the veterinarians of the future. Veterinary college in those days was a horror show, week after week.  Any student who cared deeply about dogs or cats was seen as weird and strange. Veterinarians who went into small animal practice were looked down upon as simply doing it for the money.  

Despite threats of expulsion, Katz refused to take part in the cruel surgical practice labs. 

 

THE DEFINING MOMENT FOR KATZ AND ULTIMATELY FOR IDA :  A CAMPUS VETERINARIAN UNDER ATTACK FOR REFUSING TO CLOSE HIS EYES TO THE GROSS IRRESPONSIBILITY AND TO THE RAMPANT ANIMAL CRUELTY TAKING PLACE IN THE RESEARCH LABORATORIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY CAMPUS. 

It was this unique story, however, that unfolded on the West Coast, where Katz lived with his family, which led to his defining moment, one that would launch him into activism and, ultimately, the founding of In Defense of Animals. Katz describes the beginning:      


 \


THE (FOUNDING) PRINCIPLE OF “REVERENCE FOR LIFE:” SCHWEITZER’S IDEOLOGY COURSING THROUGH THE IDA CAMPAIGNS

 

One of the chimpanzees at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, Africa

 

 

“I have incorporated the ideas of St. Francis, and I’ve also embraced the vision of Albert Schweitzer – that “the thinking man (person) must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo,” Katz said.

Dr. Jane Goodall, Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Professor J.B. Neilands are but a few of the individuals that ignite the imagination of Dr. Katz and his ongoing fight for a better world.

 

THE CENTRAL MISSION OF IDA: TO CHANGE THE WAY HUMANS VIEW AND TREAT OTHER ANIMALS, REPLACING THE TERM "OWNER" WITH THE TERM, "GUARDIAN" 

 

 

“Our goal: to change the way society views animals – that animals should be viewed as sentient beings who deserve to be treated respectfully and responsibly. The Guardian campaign expresses the core principles of the organization’s mission.

The central tenet of the Guardian campaign is that animals should not be viewed as mere commodities, property, objects, or things to be exploited, abused, abandoned, or killed at an “owner’s” whim. This shift in the relationship between humans and other animals will lead to a more humane, protective, respectful, and responsible relationship with the beings with whom we share our homes, our lives, our planet. 

 

A lucky puppy rescued from a local puppy mill, now happily living at Hope Animal Sanctuary

 

CHILDREN WHO LEARN RESPONSIBILITY, COMPASSION AND RESPECT FOR ANIMALS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BECOME COMPASSIONATE ADULTS

 

To quote Edwin Sayres, President of the ASPCA:

“The term ‘guardian accurately describes the relationship of perpetual care that is needed to teach children respect, compassion and kindness for domestic pets. Studies show that children who learn compassion and respect for animals have a better chance at becoming compassionate adults and responsible community members, and are less likely to behave violently towards others.”

 

 

Hope Animal Sanctuary Director, Doll Staney and rescued friends

 

The idea of acting as a guardian is reflected in IDA’s print and online publication, Guardians, says Katz, and in its “inspirational and motivational stories about individuals who are making a difference for animals. Guardians features informative articles about the plight of animals, the galvanizing work of activists, and ways that [we] can help animals in [our] own communities and around the world.”

 

 

Rodney, cast out because he is blind – now happily munching grass at the Hope Animal Sanctuary

 

WORKING TOWARD A NEW DEFINITION OF THE WORD “ANIMAL” – TO MEAN A SENTIENT, EMOTIONAL BEING THAT NEEDS AND DESERVES OUR PROTECTION

"If the Guardian campaign is successful, it will forever change the concept of "animal" from a "thing" that humans must control and dominate to a sentient being who deserves to be treated responsibly, with compassion and respect. 

"In addition to all the thousands of lives that IDA has saved, if I have had some small part in a paradigm shift as to how we relate to other species, then I will feel I have lived a life worth living."


Hope Animal Sanctuary in Mississippi

THE ULIMTATE GOAL: A “HANDS-ON” APPROACH TO RAISE AWARENESS AND IMPLEMENT PRACTICES THAT CREATE A MORE JUST AND COMPASSIONATE WORLD 

Katz is excited about IDA’s scope and reaching out to even more animals in need; in fact, he has coined an expression to support the marriage of IDA maxims and its wide net of activity: Thinking AND doing.

 “It’s the thinking and actually doing…putting into practice the ideas that will ultimately make a difference for the beings with whom we share our world.  It’s the ‘doing’ that will make me feel that together, we have fulfilled a dream of making the world a more peaceful, just, and considerate place,” Katz said.  “It boils down to ‘hands-on’ action: it’s the hands-on rescue; it’s campaigning to stop animal cruelty in laboratories, fur and factory farms, puppy mills, circuses and zoos; it’s raising awareness to those who don’t know or think about the daily cruelty and suffering; it’s calling for people to think and act as the guardians, the advocates, the protectors of animals.   

While the Guardian campaign, one of many undertaken by IDA (see below), will continue as the central voice of advocacy and rescue work for IDA staff and volunteers, Katz offered a word of inspiration:.

Paraphrasing Harriet Beecher Stowe, “It is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.”   

 

These days, with the ever-increasing interest in animal rights and vegan lifestyles, Katz is pleased with the part he and the IDA staff have played, and continue to play, in saving lives and changing minds.



More lucky puppy mill rescues

 

VOLUNTEERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME: “THERE IS A PLACE FOR EVERYBODY”

In reaching out to an intended audience of animal lovers, institutions, and the curious, Katz says that IDA can also attract interested parties to become involved as volunteers. “Every person, whatever skills he or she possesses are welcome,” said Katz.  “Our programs are so broad, there’s a place for everybody. Our magazine, our Web site, our weekly e-newsletter, our blogs are full of suggestions on how to participate—from making donations to writing letters, to making phone calls, to attending protests, the list goes on and on. Volunteering allows one to be part of something larger than oneself.

 “The simplest way to get involved is to receive our free weekly e-newsletter, to contact us, fill out a form, and simply ask, ‘How can I help?’ or tell us how you would like to help. Simply changing what you eat or what you wear will help bring about a more compassionate world, but there is much more you can do than that, such as educating others by distributing our literature or attending international days of protest and education.”


 

ADDENDUM:

In addition to promoting the Guardian Campaign, which is working to shift both the legal and conscious definitions of "animal" in our daily life, IDA continues it's work as an international watchdog and advocacy organization, ready to speak out against animal exploitation and cruelty everywhere in the world.  Information on major campaigns can be found at the links below:

Animal Abuse in South Korea

Animals in Entertainment

Help Elephants          

Exotic Birds

Foie Gras: Stop Force Feeding

Wild Horses and Burros

Marine Mammals

Puppy Mills

Fur Kills

Dissection

Veganism

The Truth About Vivisection

Wildlife

IDA: Help Elephants

Hope Sanctuary Blog


Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  He currently lives in southern California.


 CONTACT:

www.idausa.org

IDA’s newsletter

Facebook Page

 

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WILD ANIMALS BELONG IN THE WILD: CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

 

 

This is typical elephant behavior in the wild.  Notice the family size and their response, when the infant falls into the pond.  Notice also the texture of the savanna and its suitability for the elephants' feet and weight.

 

 


And a wonderful clip on elephant behavior from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

 

 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: WORKING ELEPHANTS

 

 

Each time you take an elephant ride as a tourist seeking an indigenous experience, your dollars are perpetuating the untold suffering of an elephant.

 

Elephants are are highly intelligent, highly social animals that exhibit human-like behaviors : they care for their young, they are protective of one another, they (famously) grieve for days over the bodies of their dead. They live in matriarchal communities in which the females stay together for life. They can roam up to 30 miles a day.  Moreover, they are essential to their ecosystems – among other things, their dung carries seeds which cultivate the flora in the savannahs. 


Tragically, these peaceful gentle giants (vegetarians) are treated barbarically by humans for exploitive purposes: They are cruelly taken captive, separated from their relatives, and "broken" by humans who work them unnaturally in logging camps, or use them as spectacles in parades, circuses or in tourist ride attractions. 

 

 

This is a bull hook, the instrument used (liberally) to "break" and manipulate elephants for use on safari rides, and for other forms of entertainment. Photo courtesy How I Became an Elephant 


 

Award winning, environmental filmmaker Tim Gorski flew to Thailand with 14 year old activist Juliette West and her father, to make the documentary film, "How I Became An Elephant", which graphically describes how these animals are "tamed"  and trained to become the working animals we see in Asia.

 

FACEBOOK PAGE

 

WEBSITE: HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT

 

ELEPHANT VOICES

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: ZOOS AND CIRCUSES

 

ELEPHANTS ARE NOT ENTERTAINMENT.  

BOYCOTT ALL ANIMAL CIRCUSES:  NO EXCEPTIONS!

 

 

 

Most zoo conditions are inhumane environments for elephants.   Listen to this radio spot: it refers to pending decisions in the Auckland Zoo — but information is applicable to zoos in general

 

 


 

 

 

 

Worst, are the circuses, which often pull nursing calves away from their mothers, and use cruel methods to prepare them for their shows. Circus visitors have no idea of how these gentle animals are "trained" to perform for the big tent.  Do not patronize circuses that use animal acts.  A list of those circuses can be found in this link: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=425

Billie, the elephant, shown in the video above, has been consigned permanently to the Los Angeles Zoo, despite public efforts to have him moved to a sanctuary.

But there is still time to help other elephants in desperate need:

 

 

 

 

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SUPERSTAR HERO: 15 YEAR OLD ELEPHANT ACTIVIST, JULIETTE WEST

Friday, December 17th, 2010



 JULIETTE WEST

15 YEAR OLD ELEPHANT ACTIVST AND STAR OF

 “HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT”


 

 Everyone can make a difference –even small things can make a big difference.  

Just passing on a circus ticket will be a big help for the elephants.

 

 

Juliette West’s animal activist journey began at the tender age of eight, when she asked her family and friends to make donations to the local animal shelter in lieu of – – gifts for her birthday.  Little did she know that six years later, that path would lead her to a starring role in Tim Gorski’s documentary film, “How I Became An Elephant”, which screened to a rapt crowd of over 400 at the Hollywood Activist Film Festival at the Egyptian Theater on December 2, 2010.  

Without giving away  too much of the story, the film centers on Juliette’s quest to rescue a badly injured female elephant from a forced breeding camp in Thailand, and transport her to the famed Elephant Nature Park sanctuary, to live out her life in peace.   In Thailand, and in other parts of Asia, elephants are used extensively for work and entertainment, and most famously, appear once a year at an “Elephant Roundup”, a public display where they thrill the crowds with elaborate circus tricks and rides.  The manner in which the elephants are “tamed” for these spectacles is a large part of the story.  By the end of the film, we learn a lot about elephants, what life is like for captive elephants in Thailand – and just why it is so important that elephants remain free and wild.

 


 



Buy why elephants?  What led to Juliette’s passion for elephants? 

Billy the elephant at the LA Zoo was her first inspiration.  When she was 12, Juliette heard about the movement to retire Billy, the lone elephant resident of the Los Angeles Zoo elephant to the PAWS  (Performing Animal Welfare Society) sanctuary.  Billy was suffering from arthritis and foot disease due to the substandard enclosure in which he was kept.  He was also lonely and cramped in a small enclosure where he rocked back and forth in a rhythm called stereotypies which signals extreme mental distress.  Stereotypies is commonly seen in captive elephants– in zoos, and especially in circuses.  It is never seen in the wild where elephants live freely with their families and roam up to 20 miles per day.

Juliette began to educate herself on elephants – how they live in the wild, what they need to live successfully in captivity.  She wrote to City Council members and to friends on Billy’s behalf, asking for their support.    She went to visit the PAWS Sanctuary, as well as to the Oakland and Oregon Zoos to see the conditions in which the elephants lived.  These fateful trips led to important meetings: the first,  with Oregon Zoo Deputy Director, Mike Keele, a leading U.S. expert on Asian elephants; and the second, with film producer Michael Tobias, who was impressed with Juliette’s passion and determination.  Tobias called Tim Gorski, a documentary filmmaker and an outspoken animal advocate to meet Juliette.


 

Within months, Juliette found herself at the Annual Animal Rights Conference, taking place in Los Angeles.  There, she met Tim Gorski, who was speaking at the conference.  Gorski was looking for a way to bring his message about elephant conservation to a younger group of people.  Juliette proved to be the perfect spokesperson.

Juliette, in person, is articulate and self possessed far beyond her years.  She spoke with Action Now+Network about her role in the film, and the message she hopes we will take from it.

 

Action Now+Network:   What was the most challenging thing about making the film?

Juliette West: This was my first time on camera, and it was difficult – I had to learn how to relax in front of the camera.  I had to leave school for two weeks, when we went to Thailand, and it was an adjustment.

 

A.N.N: What do you hope this film will accomplish?

JW: I would like people to understand the history behind the safari tours and circuses –the elephants don’t just appear there willingly doing these awful stunts.  Elephants don’t normally balance on their head.    I want people to stop and think before they take an elephant ride – what had to happen to this wild elephant, to get it to perform or to carry someone on its back. How much beating did it take to become so submissive and lose its spirit?   I hope it (the film) will educate people about what is happening in Thailand –about how the elephants are “tamed” for the safari tours – about the abuse that occurs. 

When I went to the Elephant Nature Park, the sanctuary, it was heartbreaking to see some of the rescued and retired elephants there.  They had been so abused.   One elephant had a broken back.  The elephant we saved in the film had a broken hip from a forced breeding program. 

 


ANN:  What do you see yourself doing in the future?

JW: My hope is to become an activist in some way, an animal rights activist.  I’d like to open people’s eyes as to what is happening behind the scenes when they go to a circus – what their money is supporting.

 

ANN:  What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about your experience?

JW: I’d like people to know that everyone can make a difference – and that even small things can make a big difference.  Just passing on a circus ticket will be a big help for the elephants.

 

 


  

For more information on Juliette and “How I Became An Elephant”, see the following links:

How I Became An Elephant (website)

Palisadian Saves Elephant in Thailand 

Tim Gorski, Award Winning Filmmaker and Animal Protection Advocate Speaks Out For Elephants in His New film How I Became An Elephant 

How Juliette West Became An Elephant, Change.org


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PEOPLE TO WATCH: AWARD WINNING WILDLIFE FILMMAKER, CHRIS PALMER

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

 

 


AWARD WINNING WILDLIFE FILMMAKER CHRIS PALMER

AUTHOR OF 

“SHOOTING IN THE WILD: AN INSIDER’S ACCOUNT OF

MAKING MOVIES IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM”

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YOU’LL NEVER VIEW WILDLIFE SHOWS IN THE SAME WAY AGAIN

 

 

Who hasn’t been held rapt by animal shows that bring the dramas of the natural world into our living rooms?  Who hasn’t held their breath when watching a cheetah, sprinting at full speed, close in on an unlucky gazelle, a lioness stalking her prey with the precision of a military strategist, the majestic elephants grieving for days over the bodies of their dead, or the dolphins and whales making perilous journeys around continents in their epic efforts to feed or give birth.

The wildlife shows on the major networks have made a big business of creating storylines that captivate us, pull at our heartstrings.   With the animals as central characters, we become absorbed, emotionally invested, we identify with their primal instincts to survive in their environment.   We watch, enthralled as they mate, give birth, hunt for food, raise their families, perform rituals, and face down predators in the daily life and death dance of survival in the wild.  We are convinced, from these shows that what we see is what we get, and that they allow us to witness the travails and miracles of the animals’ lives as events unfold before our eyes. 

 

Brady Barr and his crew filming the unique locomotion of a king cobra in the Western Ghat Mountains,

on the west coast of India. Simon Boyce films.  Photo by Brady Barr


Moreover, we are confident in the viewing, that these are stories filmed by people who care.  They care about the animals and how they live; they care about the environment and how the human and animal worlds can meld peaceably together.  That’s the raison d’être for these shows, right?

Well, wrong! 

Veteran wildlife filmmaker Chris Palmer has blown the lid off the sanctity of wildlife filming with his new book Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom.  In chapter after chapter, Palmer gives us the lowdown on how the films are actually made, financed and edited, with rarely a thought to ethics or conservation when filming or packaging a film for distribution. 

What a shock for the animal lover and avid follower of the network shows to find that many of the scenes described above are actually staged – in some cases animals are taken from wildlife farms, some are filmed in zoos.  In some of the more appalling instances, animals are manipulated, manhandled by entertainers like Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin, or even killed to get a sensational shot.  

Chris Palmer doesn’t pretty up the tough questions in his book.   What is the purpose of a wildlife film?  Does it matter that audiences are deceived by what they see in the final edit, or that the animals are harassed or even injured during the shooting?  Does anyone really care about conservation?  What is the responsibility of the filmmaker to address the conservation issues and does the audience even listen to a conservation message? 

 

As Graeme Duane films, Brady Barr pulls a crocodile into the boat. This "nuisance croc" had attacked and killed residents

of a small village in Sofali Province of central Mozambique, and would be relocated. Photo by Brady Barr

 

Palmer has had plenty of experience from which to tell his tale.  An award winning wildlife filmmaker, he has led the production of more than 300 hours of original programming for prime time television and the giant screen (IMAX) film industry.

He has been Founder/President and CEO of National Audubon Society Productions and of the nonprofit National Wildlife Productions (a Division of National Wildlife Federation), where he directed the NWF launch into broadcast, cable, IMAX, and other media markets.  His films have been broadcast on the Disney Channel, TBS Superstation, Animal Planet, Home and Garden Television, The Travel Channel, The Outdoor Life Network, the Public Broadcasting System, and in the global system of IMAX theaters.

Palmer’s films have received two Emmys and an Oscar nomination.  In 2009, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Media at the International Wildlife Film Festival, and recently he received the Environmental Film Educator of the Decade Award at the Green Globe Film Awards in LA.

He joined the full-time faculty at American University in August 2004 as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence and founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at the School of Communication, which he currently directs.

 

Marine cinematographer Tom Campbell shooting high-definition footage of a 15-foot great white shark off South Africa, 2001.

Photo by Dennis Coffman © SOS Ltd.

 

Action Now+Network recently had the opportunity to talk frankly with him about his life in filmmaking, his rise in the industry, his commitment to conservation and to environmental filmmaking education, and about his reasons for pulling the plug on the wildlife film industry at this point in his career.

 

ACTION NOW+NETWORK:  You started out your professional life with degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture.  Your last degree was from the Harvard JFK School of Government. How did you segue from Mechanical and Ocean Engineering and Public Administration, to Wildlife photography and filmmaking?

CHRIS PALMER: Up to my mid-30’s I was involved in different things, but I always wanted to devote my life to something worthwhile and noble.  Early on, I was interested in environmental policy.  In 1974, I became chief energy adviser to Senator Charles Percy, and worked as a political appointee for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under President Jimmy Carter.  Later, I lobbied Congress on energy and environmental issues for the National Audubon Society.

One of my great television inspirations was Henry Winkler, as The Fonz.   I was impressed with one episode of Happy Days when he signed up for a library card, and millions of kids followed suit.  The Fonz really changed lives through the medium of television.    At around that same time, I met Ted Turner –a great environmentalist, with whom I eventually partnered, who gave me a lot of money to make environmental films.  It was a different era in television at that time.  There were only a few channels in the industry.  Cable was just beginning.

 

 

Three sealing vessels wait for the opening day of Canada’s commercial seal hunt—the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world.  

This harp seal was most likely clubbed for his skin during the hunt.  Photo © Kathy Milani/The Humane Society of the U.S.


A.N.N.: Your anecdotes about the animals are particularly moving.  You describe scenarios in which there seems to be an inter-species connection, an understanding that is unexpected, such as the leopard that adopts an infant baboon after killing it’s mother, and  protects it from certain death by the hyenas.  You also describe encounters with a sperm whale and a Right whale.  And we have all heard stories about animals of all types that connect with humans, such as dolphins and whales, lions, elephants, and famously, Jane Goodall with the chimpanzees and Dian Fossey, with the gorillas. 

What do you think this says about the animals?   We know that animals have emotions and feelings and that there is a great temptation to anthropomorphize – but what should the viewer correctly take from filmed sequences like these?

CP:  What it tells us is that animals are far more like people than we ever realize.  they have feelings, emotions and social lives.  We have to be much more sensitive than we have been in the past because they are sentient beings.  Their suffering matters.  Anthropomorphizing is acceptable to some extent because it helps people to understand them and make a connection with them.

 

Doug Allan films a humpback whale mother and calf in the Vava’u Islands, Tonga, during the making of Planet Earth. Photo © Sue Flood.

 

 

A.N.N.: In your chapter “Sins of Omission”, you state that most wildlife filmmakers aren’t interested in protecting the animals or the environment, that there was a 9th segment of Blue Planet (Deep Trouble) that never got aired.   You also talk about your work with National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society to create an outreach program with an encompassing educational experience.

How successful was this model that you created in sending a message to the industry about conservation?  Do you see the zeitgeist changing in this regard?

 

CP: There is a distinction between programs produced by environmental groups vs. freelance producers trying to make a living.  Many filmmakers say openly, "Why should I worry about conservation?  I'm a filmmaker.  If I want to make a film that exploits animals, then that's my business.   I need high ratings in order to make a living and pay the rent."

The condition in which a conservation message is most likely possible, is when someone like Ted Turner owns the network.  I was lucky to work with him: he was willing to make profit a secondary goal.  As I said in my book, he wanted not only to make a successful network, but to create a forum for conservation and world peace. 

 

As cinematographer Bob Poole films cheetahs in Ndutu, Tanzania, one hops onto his Land Rover for a better view of the plains.

Photo courtesy of Bob Poole.

 

With regard to the animals: There are too many people out there bothering the animals.  If you see a cheetah on film, there might be fifteen land rovers surrounding it off camera.   We need more discussions and standards for filmmaking pertaining to animals.  We need to raise awareness, to encourage people to write letters to the networks to protest films that aren’t environmentally conscious or that endanger animals.  The networks need pressure from the public to keep them honest.  You need permits to work in national parks, but many areas outside the parks don’t require a permit.  And even the Parks need to be more vigilant.   They should ask filmmakers where they are going, what they are doing, how close they will get to the animals, and will they disturb them. 

 

A.N.N.: You talk about the “guerrilla” 1  filmmakers in your book, Paul Watson, for example, and others.  These filmmakers have a “take no prisoners” reality show style.   In Watson’s case, he skirts the law, and certainly creates sensation and drama to make his point.  However on the positive side, he is committed to the animals.  He wants to bring attention to and stop the illegal whaling industry.  In your book, you mention Watson, but you don’t comment specifically on his filmmaking ethics.

CP:   You’re right, I don’t comment on his ethics, because I am torn on this issue.   Killing whales is terrible and I applaud him for trying to stop the slaughter, but his methods worry me.  The role of cameras need to be investigated.   Does the presence of cameras influence what he does?  I worry about the impact of TV cameras on Watson’s decision making.    Are people’s lives put in danger for ratings?  In some cases, he is very close to being violent.

 

Kim Wolhuter filming hyenas at a Cape buffalo kill for the National Geographic TV special Predators at War,

Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa.  He’s able to get so close without peril because the hyenas do not see him either as a threat or as prey.

Photo © Barend Van Der Watt.


 

A.N.N.: Is this type of filmmaking effective – does it accomplish the goal of raising public awareness, and potentially creating policy change?  Or does it turn people off?

What about films like The Cove?  This type of graphic in-your-face wholesale slaughter and capture for captivity is excruciating to watch,   but it makes its point to the public.

CP: I am a great admirer of The Cove, but the slaughter is still going on.  So it is legitimate to ask, “Has the film had an impact?”   The Japanese don’t want to be bossed around by Americans.   We need to expose the slaughter, and, at the same time, make the Japanese think that ending the slaughter is their idea.   Rick O’Barry,  overall, is doing an excellent job.

 

A.N.N.: There is a parallel issue in Africa and Asia for which conservationists have just begun to find their voice, which is the decimation of the elephant and rhino populations by the poaching cartels that torture and brutally slaughter the animals.   It is difficult to be gentle with subject matter like this.

How would you advise your students to tackle subject matter like this? 

CP: They should wade into it forcefully.  This is a battle.  They need to be there.   This is where film can really make a difference .  But you have to be careful.  If you show too much grim and bloody slaughter, people get turned off.   If they turn away, then you lose them.

 

Marty Stouffer with his Arriflex HSR camera and a remarkably tame mountain goat  near Mount Evans, Colorado, not far from Idaho Springs. 

Photo by John King, courtesy of Marty Stouffer Productions, Ltd.

 


A.N.N.: This question is related to the one above:   You say that conservation filmmakers must embrace showmanship because the work is too important not to be entertaining.    Clearly the filmmakers have to make the emotional connection with the animals as well – to get the audience to care.  At the same time, it has to be honest and real.  

What is the best way for young filmmakers to get started in wildlife filmmaking, assuming they are deeply committed to conservation and want to maintain their integrity while making films?

CP:  Find mentors.  Find nurturing people who care about conservation.   Volunteer to work with such mentors.  There there are good filmmaking schools in Bozeman, Montana, and at the University of Otago in New Zealand,  as well as where I teach, at American University.  There are good people in the business.  Find them and learn from them.

 

A.N.N. Should it be an environmental filmmaker's goal to effect policy change through film?

CP:  We have a responsibility to conserve the resources that we are exploiting to make a living as filmmakers.   We should try to influence public policy as well as personal behavior.  Wildlife films are a powerful tool.  They should be part of a multi-layered conservation campaign involving extensive outreach.

 

A.N.N.: You have had an extremely rich and varied career working with the greatest legends in conservation, wildlife biology and filmmaking.   Your films have won Emmys and an Oscar nomination.  You know the ins and outs of this business and have been extremely successful at navigating it. What made you want to blow the whistle at this point in your career?  Was there an epiphanous moment or event? 

CP:  There was no epiphanous moment.    It was more of a gradual dawning that I needed to take this action.  I am 63 years old.  I’ve been haunted by what I’ve learned in last 30 years.  In the early years, I was enthralled by working with the glamorous people, the film stars, and by the celebrities. ….and then I began to think:  Do these films have an impact?  Are they hurting the very animals the films are designed to protect?   I began to worry about these things and decided that it was important to discuss it more.


Dereck and Beverly Joubert, award-winning filmmakers and National Geographic explorers-in-residence, filming lions at a buffalo kill,

Duba Plains in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo © Wildlife Films.

 

A.N.N.: Your book very clearly describes the multiple challenges that filmmakers face, to fund their films, to get what you call “the money shot” and to create a profitable venture.     Along the way, they may have to make major compromises.  They may have to accept funding from sponsors who have antithetical agendas, goad the animals or stage the environments to create additional drama and salability etc. 

You have a chapter on The Money Chase, but given that at least part of the goal for the films is education, do you foresee an alternative to the “money chase” for young filmmakers?

CP:  Networks networks are money driven.  They  have no interest in conservation.   Their goal is to outcompete their competitors and to focus on ratings, branding, profit and revenue.  Their bottom line is to capture high ratings, top branding, and to be profitable.  So the money chase is only going to get worse. 

What’s the solution?  We must all apply pressure on networks and educate film students to be more conscious of ethical issues in their careers.

 

A.N.N. : A question about your School of Communication at American University:  You have created the very prestigious Center for Environmental Filmmaking at the AU School of Communication where you now hold the position of Distinguished Film Producer in Residence.  What types of students are you looking for in your program? 

CP: Students who are curious, determined, bright, innovative, honest, who have a social conscience, and who want to make films that make a difference and have an impact.  Our program offers a B.A., an M.F.A. an M.A. and a Ph.D.

 

 

 

A.N.N. :What advice can you give to high school students and undergraduate students who want to prepare their portfolio for admission to your Center? 

CP:  I would advise them to work hard at whatever they are doing.  They should go out of their way to meet and work with people who have high standards.  They should learn all they can about environmental and wildlife issues by volunteering to work in a zoo or with a filmmaker to get hands-on experience.  And they should dig deep into themselves to find their passions.     Be prepared for compromises, but don’t let the compromises deflect you from attaining high ethical standards.

 

PURCHASE “SHOOTING IN THE WILD: AN INSIDERS ACCOUNT

OF MAKING MOVIES IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM” 

 


Foreword by Jane Goodall

 

Facebook Page

Website: SHOOTING IN THE WILD

Chapter Breakdown 


CONTACT:

 

Professor Chris Palmer

Distinguished Film Producer in Residence

Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking

School of Communication, American University

4400 Mass Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20016-8017

palmer@american.edu

cell 202-716-6160; office 202-885-3408; home 301-654-6137

www.environmentalfilm.org

http://www.american.edu/soc/faculty/palmer.cfm

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Shooting-in-the-Wild-by-Chris-Palmer/209826136795?ref=ts

http://bit.ly/a4L3LU

 

President, MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation

cpalmer@mffeducation.org

www.mffeducation.org

 

Chief Executive Officer, VideoTakes, Inc.

chris@videotakes.com

www.videotakes.com

 

 


[1] Note the term “guerrilla” filmmaker is used by the interviewer, and is not Palmer’s description.

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Elephant Voices: Elephants Captured And Sold

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

ELEPHANT VOICES

Historically, the capture of wild elephants for wars and ceremonies and other human endeavours caused precipitous declines in populations of Asian elephants. Today, the capture of wild elephants continues, albeit on a much smaller scale, for the commercial sale of elephants to elephant-back safaris, zoos and circuses, causing the breakdown of complex relationships, lasting trauma and aggressive behavior.

The process of capture and training was, and still is, gruesome. Infants, calves and even adults were rounded up, separated from family and associates, hobbled and subdued through a process of physical and emotional abuse and reward. Similar capture, using helicopters, vehicles, immobilization drugs, ropes and winches, continues today. Photographs, video and eyewitness reports of the training of recently captured elephant calves show horrible abuse – calves are often held alone chained or in small cages, access to food and water may be withheld, and they are coerced with winches, or by pokes and jabs from a bull-hooks and other device. Check also ATE 2006. Statement on elephant capture. (168.97 kB)

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Animals in the Circus: A Lifetime of Misery

Monday, December 6th, 2010

BORN FREE USA 

 

Using animals in circuses is an unnecessary and inhumane practice that's harmful to both the animals and the public. Unlike the human performers who choose to work in circuses, exotic animals are forced to take part in the show. They are involuntary actors in a degrading, unnatural spectacle.

While many people associate the circus with "safe, wholesome, family fun" — an association promoted aggressively by the circus PR machine — the truth is much darker. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses, as well as failures to provide the basic minimal standards of care required by law. Animals used in circuses have been injured and killed, and have injured and killed humans.

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