AMONG THE ANIMALS: Demonstrating for animals

Chelsea Knutson and  Claire Humphrey (right) (Photo by Doug Armstrong)

Chelsea Knutson and Claire Humphrey (right) at the dolphin slaughter protests in Seattle (Photo by Doug Armstrong)

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne & Magnolia News

September 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

The day after Watoto the elephant died at the Woodland Park Zoo in August, advocates gathered for a vigil outside the zoo to demonstrate their support to send the two remaining elephants to a sanctuary. Although the zoo has maintained that the elephants were healthy, Watoto’s collapse seemed to confirm advocates’ arguments that zoo life is inherently unhealthy for elephants.

I attended Watoto’s vigil and the demonstration outside the zoo. As I stood alongside 60 Seattle residents peacefully voicing their conscience, a man in a passing vehicle shouted, “Get a job!” as if to denigrate us for expressing concern.

That driver’s anger was directed at a protester who replied, “I’m a retired zoo-industry employee of 35 years.” She was standing alongside teachers, lawyers, parents, engineers, artists, business and nonprofit professionals and reporters who were all gainfully employed. People from all parts of society can and will stand up for animals.

This September, demonstrators gathered outside the Japanese embassy as part of a worldwide, annual protest against the dolphin slaughter and capture in Taji, Japan.

“Sixteen thousand people took part in 117 protests last year,” accounted Seattle resident Franziska Edwards, speaking of the simultaneous protests held around the world. The events are held at marine parks to discourage attendance and at Japanese consulates to hold the Japanese government accountable, Edwards explained.

Queen Anne resident Claire Humphrey also attended, though she had never protested for animals before. After Humphrey saw the documentary “The Cove” and learned more about the threats to dolphins and ocean mammals, she has decided to get more involved.

“Attending the demonstration was a step in the right direction,” Humphrey said.

Joining the charge

Fall is a perfect time to get involved and let your voice be heard for animals. Protests, demonstrations and marches are taking place throughout the region.

Every year, a circus comes to town to display elephants and other captive wild animals by forcing them to perform tricks for amusement. Local residents Jim Becker and Doug Armstrong, volunteers with the Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN), are helping people understand the consequences of attending the circus.

“A day at the circus for your family constitutes a lifetime of misery for the animals,” Armstrong said. New Metro Transit bus ads will remind people of this message and to not attend the circus.

narn_circus_ad_tail_18x60_150dpi2

Metro bus ads (Photo courtesy of NARN)

“Like most people, I grew up going to the circus,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think anyone goes with the intention to cause harm to animals. I think people don’t realize what happens behind the scenes. Elephants go through a tremendous amount of suffering — everything from being separated from their mothers to being beaten and whipped and chained up for most of their lives, just so people can spend a couple hours eating popcorn and laughing at some silly elephant tricks.”

Becker and Armstrong are coordinating demonstrations at each of the performances of Ringling Brothers Circus in Kent and Everett this September. You can help educate the public and let your voice be heard against animal cruelty by attending a demonstration. Visit www.narn.org/circus/ for dates and times, and check out the Pacific Northwest Against Circus Cruelty Facebook page.

While elephants suffer in circuses and zoos, they are also at risk in the wild. Oct. 4 is the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, and concerned citizens will gather in Seattle’s International Children’s Park (700 S. Lane St.).

Co-organizer Nicki Aloisio explained that an elephant is poached every 15 seconds for the ivory in her tusk, and every nine hours a rhinoceros is killed for her horn. Animal advocates expect that by 2025 wild elephants and rhinoceros could be wiped out.

Event co-organizer Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, said that the poaching crisis is at a tipping point: “Bringing awareness to this tragedy is critical. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants is committed to the welfare of elephants; not just those suffering and dying young in zoos but also those dying young in the wild.”

(For more information, visit the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos on Facebook.)

A catalyst for change

Alyne Fortgang (left) and Kimberly Mills (Photo by Jenn Forbes)

Alyne Fortgang (left) and Kimberly Mills (Photo by Jenn Forbes)

The brave individuals who attend demonstrations, rallies, marches and protests are just as busy as you and me. They have full-time jobs and many are raising children, but they know they must show up for an hour or so and speak out if they expect an end to animal injustices.

While a small number of protest on-lookers deal with these uncomfortable messages by showing anger, demonstrators often find that their efforts are rewarded by hearing passers-by say, “I just didn’t know, but now I know and I can make better choices for animals.”

In the United States, we depend on demonstrations to move our society away from the status quo. Our history of progress from civil rights and LBGT equality to environmental conservation and animal rights depends on demonstrations to bring hidden issues into the light of day. While this transition is rarely comfortable, it is absolutely necessary and is often the primary catalyst for change to help humans, animals and the environment.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com. To comment on this story, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

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