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We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704

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The protesters come to town

Published in THE JOURNAL NEWS, www.thejournalnews.com , 2/19/06:

By CANDICE FERRETTE
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: February 19, 2006)

WHITE PLAINS They seem to be as much a part of the circus as the flying trapeze.

Members of Animal Defenders of Westchester braved below-freezing temperatures for nearly three hours during an animal-rights protest outside the Westchester County Center yesterday, while inside thousands watched the three-ring acts of the Royal Hanneford Circus.

"We tell people, 'Look at us. We are working people. This is our day off and we could be home in bed,' " said Kiley Blackman, a Yonkers resident and organizer of yesterday's demonstration. "But we have to do it because the animals have no choice. This is the least we could do."

The circus, which will be in town until tomorrow, performs three shows per day with acts including elephants, horses, ponies and tigers.

Struppi Hanneford, 75, owner of the circus, yesterday dismissed the protesters' claims that the animals were ill-treated. She said the circus, which has been coming to Westchester for 35 years, has always complied with USDA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife guidelines.

"I want to thank those people (the protesters) for staying out in the cold and bringing us publicity," said Hanneford. "Why don't they worry about the poor homeless people lying out on benches freezing to death today?"

Blackman and her group of seven protesters many of whom have returned year after year to chant "Get Hanneford Out" argue the animals are treated inhumanely, chained to walls and confined to cramped spaces inside the center, and have not been properly vaccinated. The group advocates for animal-free circuses where face painting and human performers are the main attraction, not animals.

"It's impossible to keep elephants in captivity humanely," said protester Tracy Basile, 51, an Ossining resident and a professor at Pace University. "In nature, they would walk miles and miles per day. These elephants are chained."

Inside the circus, clowns were painting children's cheeks, and families enjoyed balloons and cotton candy. Parents and children of all ages came early for thrilling pony and elephant rides.

The circus draws 1,200 to 1,400 people to each show and expects to host up to 12,000 people by its last show tomorrow.

Ebony White, 24, of Yonkers said she noticed the determined protesters outside. However, she didn't think twice about buying a ticket and having a good time with her family.

"We are still going to come to the circus. It's a family thing," said White, a student at Howard University. "It doesn't seem to be affecting anyone."

As the lights dimmed for the 2 p.m. show, 4-year-old Sophie Harris of Ossining perked up in her seat.

"The tigers, the tigers," she exclaimed.

Her father, Bob Harris, 59, an editor at The New York Times Book Review, said the family had a good time last year, which is why they came again. The idea that people were protesting didn't prevent him from watching the show.

"I'm not convinced that they abuse the animals here," Harris said.


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