Animal Writes
From 23 February 2003 Issue

Don't Let Animal Cruelty Show up in Your Town
From [email protected]  

When the circus comes to town, don't roll out the welcome wagon -- put up a billboard!

The beatings are becoming more heavy-handed. The whips are snapping more wildly than usual. And the psychological abuse has become almost constant. Circuses and traveling animal acts are gearing up for another season and soon could be bringing their acts of abuse to your town. While circus are hooking up the cramped, barren boxcars that will become a formerly wild animal's "home" for more than 50 weeks this year, it's important that we also start preparing a nice "cold" welcome for the Cruelest Show on Earth!

* Find out which circuses and animal acts will be performing in your area. Check their exhibitor's record and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to see if they have been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act [non-AOL users see website #1 at end of article]. If the circus has violations -- and most of them do! -- let everyone know.

* Find out when and where the circus or animal act will be performing in your area. Contact the group(s) who will be sponsoring the circus [#2], as well as the venue where it's being held. Let them know there are plenty of spectacular animal-free circuses and shows available so they don't need to support animal cruelty or put the public in danger. And if the circus has violations, provide that information as well. [Example: Ringling Bros. has a huge, ongoing list.]

* Put up a billboard and/or run an advertisement in honor of the circus animals. Most outdoor companies require a few months' lead time to rent a billboard -- especially if you want a specific location. Because billboards usually run for a month, you'll want to have your ad up three weeks prior to the circus coming to town as well as the week it's performing. You don't usually need as much lead time when running a newspaper ad, but you might use the added time to work on ways to raise money to buy the ad space. API is happy to provide free billboard [#3] and print ad [#4] materials (more ads here [#5] and here [#6]), including shipping, but you'll have to reserve and pay for the space. API has English as well as Spanish-language billboards [#7] available.

Just Before the Show
* Order some of API's posters [#8] and hang them everywhere you think potential circus-goers might be. Schools, libraries, college campuses, bookstores, coffee shops, movie theaters, etc. ... Be creative! But always ask for permission before posting. It's no use wasting paper or time if they're just going to be torn down. Remember, we want to win people over to the animals' side and our actions can help (or hurt) that process.

* Write a Letter to the Editor [#9] of your local newspaper explaining why circuses are no fun for animals and don't teach our children respect for our wild friends. If the circus is in a college town, contact the school paper about writing an "op-ed" piece and don't forget about the small neighborhood papers as well.

* Find out when and where the animals are being unloaded and be there -- with a camera or video recorder in hand -- to capture any violations of the Animal Welfare Act [#10]. Report any suspected problems to the USDA and to your local humane society or animal control agency.

* Communicate with local activist groups and individuals and plan to hold an "educational" demo at the performances. Contact API and order flyers [#11] to distribute. (See also print-ready pdf's of The Big Lie Under the Big Top in English [#12] and Spanish [#13].) Write a press release [#14] and send it out to your local media a few days prior to your demo inviting them to come and cover the story.

During the Show
* Be at the entrance to the performances. You'll be surprised how many people still don't know about the big abuse that goes on under the big top. Let them know about all the wonderful animal-free circuses that truly are fun for the whole family. It's also a good idea to find out from the police or venue just where you are able to hold your demonstration. Then call the media that day and let them know exactly where you are.

* Monitor the news very closely for any animal incidents. Many times the circus is able to keep an escaped-tiger incident quiet. You might even contact your police and city shelter after the show. Sometimes they are called in to intervene when an animal escapes, yet the story never makes it into the paper.

After the Circus Leaves
Approach public officials about joining the many cities across the U.S. that have banned traveling animal acts [#15] in their city. Even if there were no animal incidents, let them know that they were lucky this time. For the safety of animals as well as people, the city should enact a restriction on traveling animal acts and circuses [#16].

* Write to the USDA, urging it to better protect animals used in circus by increasing its enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.

* Contact all the circus sponsors (whether media [#17] or business [#18]) and ask them please to support only animal-free acts in the future.

* Find out where the circus is heading next and contact activists in that area. Let them know what worked well for you, as well as anything you found out that could be beneficial. Some of the larger circuses are hiring photographers to film our demonstrations and other activists would appreciate a heads-up if this is the case with a circus coming to their town.

And always feel free to call API for any help or suggestions along the way. Contact Sharie Lesniak [email protected] at 916-447-3085 x216.


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