Return to the home page Watch Gary's videos on his YouTube channel Contact ADAPTT

In the News: Circuses

“The horrifying images of chained elephants, lions and tigers being buffeted with blackjacks, iron bars, hooks and whips are etched on my mind”

ADAPTT's anti-circus billboard was erected on September 3, 1999 along 1-75 and West Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Activist Calls for Boycott of Well-Known Circus

By Gary Yourofsky

The following editorial appeared in The Oakland Post (Oakland U.'s school paper) on September 24, 1997.

The Joe Louis Arena will be hosting a house of horrors beginning October 1, even though Halloween won't arrive until the 31st.

Dozens of enslaved and mistreated animals will be hauled in for five days of deplorable performances courtesy of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey animal-oriented circus.

However, by engaging in an animal-based circus, the Ringling Bros. will be in direct opposition with its own propaganda. Attempting to provide pleasure to children is magnanimous. Yet, torturing animals to accomplish that goal is despicable.

Most people are unaware of the violent, exploitative and immoral aspects of the circus. However, the horrifying images of chained elephants, lions and tigers being buffeted with blackjacks, iron bars, hooks and whips are etched on my mind. These malicious acts have been caught on video, and I have watched them until nauseated.

Of course these pictures are off limits to the public, so the spin doctors at Ringling can disseminate the duplicitous lie that circuses are fun and family-oriented.

Everyone must understand that circus abuse is rampant. In fact, it's a moot point. Brutality is the only way to train a wild elephant, lion, tiger or bear. The pride must be beaten out of these majestic creatures. Then, and only then, will they acquiesce and perform stupid tricks for the public.

Even Henry North Ringling stated the truth about circuses in his book The Circus Kings. "It is not usually a pretty sight to see the big cats (lions, tigers) being trained. ...When the trainer starts off they are all chained to their pedestals, and ropes are put around their necks to choke them down and make them obey. All sorts of other brutalities are used to force them to respect the trainer and learn their tricks. They work from fear," Ringling stated.

Furthermore, physician, philosopher and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schwietzer once said that exhibiting trained animals is abhorrent. "What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure in order to give pleasure to men devoid of thought."

It's quite ironic that I've never turned on The Discovery Channel and viewed a documentary of elephants in sequined accessories standing on one leg upon pedestals in the jungles of Tanzania or the wastelands of Asia. Also, I've never seen the lions and tigers of Namibia jumping through rings of fire in order to occupy their leisure time. North American black bears in yellow tutus riding tricycles are noticeably absent as well.

There are no angels in a world of demons. So the public should not think that only smaller circuses do the abusing and not Ringling Bros. The animal rights community has videos which clearly show Gunther Gebel-Williams, Ringling's head elephant trainer, and others hitting and abusing elephants.

The Elephant Alliance in La Jolla, California has documented 22 circus-related deaths since 1990, including the 1993 killing of the head elephant trainer at Ringling Brother's breeding compound, and 19 circus elephant deaths since 1994. Plus, The Alliance has a copy of an official USDA report citing Ringling Bros. for 83 violations from 1990-93 of the Animal Welfare Act.

The animal rights community does not want to eradicate circuses. We only want the animals taken out so the circuses can be all human, like the Cirque du Soleil.

If animals are ever freed from the circus, the animal rights movement only gains justice. Meanwhile, Ringling Bros. would lose tens of millions of dollars if animal freedom is ever achieved. Boycott the "Greatest Show on Earth" and demand justice.

Circus Promotes Animal Abuse

By Gary Yourofsky

The following letter-to-the-editor appeared in The Oakland Press (Michigan) on September 26, 1997.

The Joe Louis Arena will be hosting a house of horrors beginning October 1, even though Halloween won't arrive until the 31st. Dozens of enslaved and mistreated animals will be hauled in for five days of deplorable performances courtesy of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey animal-oriented circus.

Most people are unaware of the violent, exploitative and immoral aspects of the circus. However, the horrifying images of chained elephants, lions and tigers being buffeted with blackjacks, iron bars, hooks and whips are etched on my mind. These malicious acts have been caught on video, and I have watched them until nausea sets in.

Everyone must understand that circus abuse is rampant. Brutality is the only way to train a wild elephant, lion, tiger or bear. The pride must be beaten out of these majestic creatures. Then, and only then, will they acquiesce and perform stupid tricks for the public's amusement.

Activist Stages Protest Outside Circus

By Mike Martindale

The following article appeared in The Oakland Press (Michigan) on October 2, 1997.

To most people, circuses conjure up images of laughter, excitement and good old-fashioned family fun. But to animals rights advocate Gary Yourofsky these events are more often frightening exercises in animal abuse.

"I've never turned on The Discovery Channel and seen elephants in sequined accessories standing on one leg on pedestals in the jungles of Tanzania," said Yourofsky, president of ADAPTT. "That's because animals don't do stupid tricks in the wild."

Yourofsky, who has organized an informational protest outside the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances this week at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, has protested animal rights in several forums.

Earlier this year, the Royal Oak resident was arrested at a Canadian mink farm, where hundreds of minks were released. A preliminary trial in that case is set for Nov. 6.

"We're not against circuses," he said. "Circuses are fine as long as they're all-human circuses, not efforts to exploit animals for profit."

Yourofsky said animals are often trained by being clubbed, chained or hooked into submission by their keepers and then kept in inhumane, cramped quarters that may result in injury and death.

He is not alone in his criticism. A California-based group called The Elephant Alliance campaigns against what it describes as inhumane treatment of elephants. Director Florence Lambert said statistics show that 21 circus elephants have died in the past three years, three from tuberculosis. The group also has literature showing that Ringling and other traveling circuses are regularly cited for violations of federal regulations and the Animal Welfare Act.

The group examined reports from the USDA and from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and found 83 violations of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus between August 1990 and October 1993. Besides feeding and medical violations, inspectors frequently found animals were denied enough space or exercise.

Circus is Torture for Animals

By Gary Yourofsky

The following editorial appeared in The Mirror (Royal Oak, Michigan) on March 5, 1998.

The Michigan State Fairgrounds will be hosting a house of horrors beginning Friday, even though Halloween is seven months away. Dozens of enslaved and mistreated animals will be hauled in for 17 days of deplorable performances courtesy of the Shriners and their animal-oriented circus.

Most people are unaware of the violent, exploitative and immoral aspects of the circus. However, the horrifying images of chained elephants, lions and tigers being buffeted with blackjacks, iron bars, hooks and whips are etched on my mind.

Animal abuse in the circus abuse is rampant. In fact, it's a moot point. Brutality is the only way to train a wild elephant, lion, tiger or bear. The pride must be beaten out of these majestic creatures. Then, and only then, will they acquiesce and perform stupid tricks for certain people's amusement.

Even Henry North Ringling stated the truth about circuses in his book The Circus Kings. "It is not usually a pretty sight to see the big cats (lions, tigers) being trained. ...When the trainer starts off they are all chained to their pedestals, and ropes are put around their necks to choke them down and make them obey. All sorts of other brutalities are used to force them to respect the trainer and learn their tricks. They work from fear," Ringling stated.

Florence Lambert of The Elephant Alliance in La Jolla, California has documented 23 circus-related deaths since 1990 and 20 circus elephant deaths since 1994. Dozens of other lion and tiger deaths have been documented, as well.

In fact, last month a Ringling Brothers animal trainer shot and killed a tiger after the abused animal tore the scalp off of another animal trainer in front of an audience. Plus, earlier this year, a baby elephant named Kenny died under Ringling's tyranny. Details of the death have been hard to extract. In May 1997, Wayne Franzen of the Franzen Brothers Circus was killed by one of his abused tigers in front of 20 children at the St. Benedict Catholic School in Carrolltown, Penn.

In addition, Lambert verifies that over 300 injuries occur every year at circuses all across America. Last year, at one of the Shrine Circus performances in Grand Rapids, a 2-year-old girl had the tip of her finger bitten off by a caged bear. That accident and others could have been avoided if circuses would free their imprisoned animals and go all-human like the radiant Cirque du Soleil.

Understand, animal rights activists are not driven by the potential for economic gain. The animal rights movement only gains justice if animal freedom is ever obtained. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of corporations and individuals stand to lose hundreds of billions of dollars if the latter is achieved. So, who are you going to believe?

Animal Rights Activists Protest at Shrine Circus

By Jennifer Dixon

The following article appeared in The Detroit Free Press & News on March 7, 1998.

Gary Yourofsky of Royal Oak lies chained to his car at the state fairgrounds in Detroit on Friday. He was joined by Tiiu Ruben of Ann Arbor.

Two animal rights activists locked themselves to their car at the entrance of the state fairgrounds Friday, blocking traffic for nearly an hour on the opening night of The Shrine Circus.

With his neck connected with a bicycle lock to the axle of his 1992 Toyota Corolla, Gary Yourofsky shouted that "animals don't do stupid tricks in the wild" and are abused by the circus. Tiiu Ruben knelt silently with a U-shaped lock around her neck and the passenger-side door frame.

After about 40 minutes, firefighters cut through the locks. Police led Yourofsky and Ruben away in handcuffs—but not before an officer snapped some photographs. "Of course, it's illegal," the officer, who didn't give his name, said about the protest. "But it doesn't mean it's not a Kodak moment."

Police said Yourofsky, 27, an Oakland University journalism student who lives in Royal Oak, and Ruben, 23, a graphics designer from Ann Arbor, would be charged with disorderly conduct and released.

Yourofsky is president of ADAPTT. He said he locked himself to his car to call attention to the "oppression, discrimination and cruelty that is hurled upon defenseless animals."

Antoinette Pressley, who was at the Fairgrounds entrance with her three children called the protest "a little bit extreme."

Said Shriner Kirk Trail of Redford, who collected parking fees: "It's pretty stupid. It messes up everything for the whole public that wants to come and see the circus, and they're late for the show."

Speaking on Behalf of Fellow Animals

The headline above, and photograph and caption below, appeared in the Sterling Heights Sentry on July 15, 1998.

Members of ADAPTT and HARE protest outside the Sterling & Reid Brothers 3-Ring Circus at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights July 6.

Animal Activists Greet Circus With Proposal to Ban It

By Kim North Shine

The following article appeared in The Detroit News & Free Press on October 10, 1998.

This year hasn't been so great for The Greatest Show on Earth: Three circus animals died, a settlement was reached with federal animal welfare regulators and a growing chorus of controversy greets the show in every town.

Detroit will be no exception today and Sunday as The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus draws large crowds and loud protests to Joe Louis Arena.

And what's going on quietly, with the endorsement of Detroit Zoological Institute Director Ron Kagan, is the circulation of a proposal to ban live animal acts in metro Detroit. Hollywood, Fla., is believed to be the only US city to ban animal shows.

Gary Yourofsky passes out balloons that say “Circuses are mean to animals” Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

City officials in Ann Arbor, Fraser, Hamtramck, Oak Park and Ypsilanti have been sent the proposed ordinance, drawn up by Livonia attorney Matt Savich. The measure, accompanied by a letter from Kagan that encourages an end to the "constant travel, daily and prolonged chaining and rigorous physical training" of elephants, has not been debated by public bodies.

An animal rights group, ADAPTT, which worked on the proposal, plans to distribute it in other metro Detroit cities. ADAPTT also is proposing that cities welcome human-only circuses.

Kagan wrote, "We also believe that animals should not be used in demeaning and degrading ways, such as the case when animals are forced to perform. We are part of nature, and reducing an animal to a caricature only perpetuates distorted views and attitudes about animals. Finally, there is the serious issue of public safety with regard to elephants. Numerous injuries and deaths (both to people and elephants) have occurred when they are forced to perform."

Kagan said Friday that it is nearly impossible to keep the animals healthy and calm as they constantly travel and are forced to perform.

Kenny, an elephant calf, died of a gastrointestinal infection in January. Last month a settlement was reached in the elephant's death between Ringling and the USDA, with the circus agreeing to pay $10,000 to an elephant sanctuary and $10,000 for elephant disease research. Also last month, Gypsy, a sea lion, died in her cargo box of an apparent infection. In January a 350-pound Bengal tiger named Arnold was shot to death in his cage by the brother of a trainer Arnold had attacked.

With showgoers watching, the tiger seized the trainer by the head as they posed for a photograph in St. Petersburg, Fla. The trainer is recovering from a brain injury.

Last summer the city zoo in Albuquerque confiscated animals from a circus after police found an elephant dead inside a hot trailer.

"If more zoos would take the stand that circuses are absolutely not educational and not in the best interest of the animals, there would be a lot less suffering," said Pat Derby, director of Performing Animal Welfare Society, a California sanctuary.

Local Animal Rights Activist Protests Circus

By Amy Wettlaufer

The following article appeared in The Mirror (Royal Oak, Michigan) on September 16, 1999.

"The Circus Sucks," said a local animal rights activist in the form of a $5,000 billboard located off I-75 on West Grand Blvd. near the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit.

Gary Yourofsky, Royal Oak resident and president of ADAPTT, said the billboard is the latest in a series of attacks by the group against the circus in the Detroit area.

ADAPTT is a nonprofit organization that strives to abolish the use of animals in medical research, product testing, circuses, rodeos and other forms of entertainment. The organization also opposes hunting and the wearing of fur.

Speaking of fur, in 1997 Yourofsky and several members of ADAPTT, released 1,500 mink from Ebert's Fur Farm in Blenheim, Ontario. Yourofsky was convicted of breaking and entering and served 77 days in a Canadian correctional facility.

The billboard, which went up last week and was paid for by ADAPTT, reads: "Chained, caged and abused for your entertainment. The Circus Sucks!" It includes three graphic photos of animals, including an elephant in chains and two exotic cats in cages.

The group also is staging a 12-day protest at the UniverSoul Circus, which is going on through Sunday at Chene Park in Detroit. The UniverSoul Circus is the first touring African-American owned and operated big top-style circus. Its animal acts include lions, tigers, elephants, chimpanzees and dogs. UniverSoul Circus claims to have a strong animal rights policy, but Yourofsky isn't buying it.

"You don't turn on the Discovery Channel and see elephants walking throught the jungles of Tanzania in sequined suits," he said. He said elephants are kept in chains between performances and lions, tigers and bears are kept in cages, a state he believes is not only cruel, but completely unnatural. "Elephants in the wild walk 20-50 miles a day," Yourofsky said.

Another aspect of a circus he finds troublesome is the surface on which the animals must perform. "Most circuses have their shows on concrete," Yourofsky said. "Most animals walk on a grassy terrain, and they need to walk on what they were meant to walk on—grass."

Several animals have died recently in circuses, including a baby elephant being transported to a circus in July, Yourofsky said.

Deaths during transportation happen because the semi-trucks or rail cars being used have no air conditioning or heat. And as well as being in complete darkness, elephants are left to stew in their own waste. Along with physical abuse, animals also are subjected to psychological abuse, Yourofsky said.

"After a few days of overbearing dominance and constant confinement, all circus animals begin to experience neurosis or exhibit some form of neurotic behavior," he said. "Elephants sway from side to side or rotate their heads in a constant circular motion. Lions and tigers pace back and forth in their pathetic little cages, and bears bite the steel bars of their mobile prisons and also sway and pace."

But the president and founder of UniverSoul Circus, Cedric Walker, says the circus' stance on the treatment of animals is in its animal rights policy. "The UniverSoul Circus' position on animal rights is clear," Walker said. "We are strongly opposed to any form of cruelty or mistreatment of animals."

The circus, which was established in 1994, has never been cited for any violations.

But Yourofsky said that as long as animals are being used to entertain for monetary gain, his work will never be done. "I do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, out of the goodness of my heart," Yourofsky said. "People don't understand what you do if you do it for no monetary gain. Animal rights is one of the most unselfish movements around."

In October ADAPTT will protest the Ringling Bros. at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. In recent years, Ringling has known its share of controversy. In April 1998 the USDA charged Ringling with violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act after the death of an endangered baby elephant named Kenny.

For more information on ADAPTT, call 810-763-2715 or write P.O. Box 725, Royal Oak, MI 48068.

Clowning Glory

By Craig Pearson

The following paragraphs were part of a Windsor Star article on October 10, 1999 about the circus.

When the circus comes to town, it brings a host of familiar spectacles—goofy clowns, high-wire performers, trapeze artists, leaping tigers, standing elephants and angry protesters.

But the circus isn't all laughs, at least not to everyone.

Animal rights crusader Gary Yourofsky, who founded the Royal Oak-based ADAPTT, used a bullhorn to lead a group of half a dozen chanting protesters outside The Joe. It's the same group that erected a billboard along the I-75 at West Grand Blvd. proclaiming: "The Circus Sucks."

"Circuses are animal slavery enterprises," says Yourofsky, who was banned from Canada after he served 77 days in jail this year for freeing 1,542 minks from a fur farm in Blenheim, Ontario. "Their livelihoods are built upon the misery and suffering of animals. It is impossible for any circus to properly care for non-domesticated animals such as a lion or tiger or bear. The elephants are kept in chains their entire lives when they're not performing stupid idiotic tricks."

Yourofsky says his group doesn't want to ban circuses, just animal-oriented ones.

Whoa, Nelly

The headline above, and photograph and caption below, appeared in The Collegian (U. of Toledo's school paper) on February 28, 2000.

Members of ADAPTT protest a circus held in Savage Hall yesterday. ADAPTT opposes the treatment of circus animals, calling the circus a form of slavery.

Animal Rights Activists Protest Circus at Barnstormer

By Kasey Everly

The following excerpts appeared in The Express (Michigan) on July 23, 2000.

"Praesto et Persto." Latin for the term, "I stand in front and I stand firm," 29-year-old animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky wears the tattoo on his right forearm like a blazing badge of courage. He received it after being recognized as part of the Animal Liberation Front, an underground extremist group, after a six-month incarceration for busting out 1,542 minks from an Ontario fur farm in 1997.

Yourofsky is well-known for his acts of civil disobedience; he once chained himself underneath his car and blocked the entrance to the Detroit Animal Control Center. In fact, he travels all over the nation preaching his message of animal liberation and leading the Michigan animal rights group he founded, ADAPTT.

In an area like the M-36 corridor, where hunting is about as normal and accepted a sport as hockey, most local folks have never heard of Yourofsky or ADAPTT. But on Friday afternoon, the group and its founder made their presence known by protesting The Royal Hanneford Circus at Barnstormer Entertainment Complex on M-36 in Whitmore Lake.

Yourofsky and a small band of supporters were protesting the entire weekend of the performance with posters in hand to relay their message: Animals belong in the wild, not the circus. "People often hear me say the circus is an animal slavery event," Yourofsky said. "The circus fits every criterion of slavery...animals caged up, confined, incarcerated, forced to perform against their will, forced to perform unnatural acts, shipped around from city to city. They receive no compensation while someone else profits off their work. That is slavery," he said.

Yourofsky argues that circus animals, in order to be trained to perform, are "beaten and dominated." He claims to have spent five years researching and documenting every popular American circus on the circuit by going undercover. There, he said, he's seen animals beaten with metal objects and confined. "These animals don't enjoy entertaining human beings," Yourofsky said. "That's why they have to be kept in chains and cages."

ADAPTT boasts 1,850 members, mostly Michigan residents, since its inception in 1996. Yourofsky said the reason so many people still attend the circus, despite the efforts of his group to educate people, is because of ignorance. "99 percent out of 100 percent of the people I speak to about circuses don't know what's going on," he said. "The majority of people are unaware."

Animal Slavery

By Gary Yourofsky

The following editorial appeared in The Farmington Observer on August 10, 2000.

As founder and president of ADAPTT, Michigan's most active animal liberation organization, and an expert on human-to-animal slavery, let me say that the deceitful article written by Ellen Herscher in your July 27 edition was a complete and utter lie.

The circus is an animal-slavery enterprise. It meets every criterion of slavery. Animals chained and caged and dominated against their will. Animals shipped from city to city like cargo in hot box cars against their will. Animals forced to perform unnatural and idiotic tricks against their will. While someone else profits off their misery. That, my friends, is the utmost definition of slavery.

The issue of an animal-oriented circus being abusive is a moot point. It is impossible to use positive reinforcement with purely wild animals like elephants, lions, bears and tigers. Violence is the only way to make wild animals perform unnatural tricks. Training sessions are comprised of beatings in order to establish superiority. Blackjacks, hooks, iron bars, whips and sticks are used to beat the pride out of animals. That’s why all circus trainers carry weapons around with them like elephant hooks—which are pick-axe like devices—and whips for the lions, bears and tigers.

In 1998, during a Shrine Circus protest in Detroit, a police officer even pulled out his gun and threatened to shoot me for displaying an elephant hook to passersby.

In the wilds of Africa and Asia, elephants walk 20 to 50 miles a day and take mud and dust baths as part of their natural behavior. However, elephants in the circus have their front, left legs and back, right legs chained up at all times when they are not on stage doing idiotic tricks. Not only can they not walk 20 to 50 miles a day, they can’t even take one step. For image reasons, some circuses have started keeping elephants behind electrical fences. But these areas are unsuitable for two pound toy poodles let alone 5,000 pound elephants.

Lions, bears and tigers fare no better. Circuses cage them like prisoners. The result of the constant confinement is sad. Most animals in the circus develop neurosis and exhibit neurotic behaviors. Elephants sway from side to side. Lions, bears and tigers pace back and forth in their cages and sometimes engage in self-mutilation.

The transportation process is ridiculous as well. Animals are shipped year-round from city to city in semi-trucks and railway cars. The semis and rail cars are without electricity, so every trip is in complete darkness, without air conditioning if it’s warm and without heat if it’s cold. Furthermore, if being chained up, caged up, dominated, humiliated and enslaved isn’t horrible enough, larger circuses—like The Shriners, Royal Hanneford and Ringling Bros.—deny animals sunlight. These circuses perform for 3-21 days straight and keep animals in the warehouse area during their Michigan visits.

Needless to say, there will be a protest on August 13 at The Kelly Miller Circus at Soccer Soccer Park in Farmington Hills. See you there.

Animal Activists Protest Circus

The leader of an animal rights group doesn't believe that a circus can be the greatest show on earth because of the way he believes animals are mistreated. He and other activists peacefully protested the Kelly Miller Circus in Farmington Hills Sunday.

By Joni Hubred

The following excerpts appeared in the The Farmington Observer (Michigan) on August 17, 2000.

Farmington Hills police prepared for the worst this weekend after animal rights activists announced they would picket a performance of the Kelly Miller Circus at Soccer Soccer.

"We had a few officers over there, and we set up a command post," Chief Bill Dwyer said. "You never know what to expect, so you plan for the worst."

Dwyer arrived on the scene to find only a half-dozen people carrying signs on the east side of Drake Road, near 12 Mile. The protest was a peaceful one, as is the custom of ADAPTT, according to founder Gary Yourofsky. Based in Royal Oak, ADAPTT is Michigan's most active animal rights group, Yourofsky said.

"I've been following Kelly Miller around for years," he said. "They're one of the worst. One elephant is swaying so neurotically, she's completely insane because of the confinement."

Yourofsky believes the majority of circus animals display neurotic behavior, commonly called "circosis." Elephants sway, tigers and lions pace or bite the bars of their cages because they've been taken out of their natural environment and don't get enough exercise. In all cases, animals are beaten to force them into submission, Yourofsky charged.

He claims Kelly Miller Circus is one of the worst offenders, a charge circus home officer manager William Rawls vehemently disputes. "Kelly Miller Circus supports the humane treatment of animals," Rawls said. "That's not to say there aren't circuses out there that don't take care of their animals."

Yourofsky, however, says he has seen conditions that belie the circus' claims. "When animals are not on stage, they are taken backstage and caged up or chained up," he said.

Yourofsky's animal rights activism stems from an experience with a circus. His stepfather, a Shrine Circus clown, took him backstage when he was 23. "I'll never forget standing face to face with this 8,000-pound elephant. She was swaying and chained to the cement floor, and it hit me like a ton of bricks," he recalled. "I just knew from seeing this elephant, this was slavery."

After extensive research, Yourofsky decided to become a vegan, which takes vegetarianism a step further. He not only refuses to eat meat and animal products, he won't wear animal skins of any kind, wool or down, and won't use any products that are animal-tested. "It's the most compassionate lifestyle," he said.

A forceful activist, Yourofsky spent 77 days in a maximum security prison in Canada for releasing 1,542 minks "imprisoned" at a ranch. He was subsequently deported and boasts another 10 arrests. "Do we break laws? Absolutely," he said.

Not in Farmington Hills, however. Sunday's protest involved only picket signs and handing out literature.

"They followed the rules," Chief Dwyer said.

Siegfried and Roy

By Gary Yourofsky

The following editorial appeared in The Oakland Press (Michigan) in October of 2003.

The issue of whether animal trainers use violence to form a master-slave relationship with exotic animals is moot.

Even Henry North Ringling, one of the founders of the Ringling Bros., admitted to the perfunctory abuse of wild animals in entertainment venues. Ringling made the following statement in his own autobiography, The Circus Kings: "It is not usually a pretty sight to see the big cats being trained. When the trainer starts off, ropes and chains are put around their necks to choke them down and make them obey. All sorts of other brutalities are used to force them to respect the trainer and learn their tricks. They work from fear."

By now, most people are aware that Vegas Showman and lifelong animal exploiter Roy Horn was mauled by a tiger during a show at The Mirage last week. His partner, Siegfried, was unharmed during the feline's revolt.

I want to be very clear about the fact that Roy Horn was no friend to the countless animals he forced to perform in more than 5,700 shows over the last 35 years. If Siegfried and Roy truly cared about the happiness of the animals they irresponsibly owned, they should have long ago created a beautiful, rolling-hilled sanctuary for the tigers' sanity and exploration and left them alone after that. Parading animals around on stage is not friendly. Degrading, mocking, humiliating and caging tigers for personal profit and audience laughter is not noble.

Siegfried and Roy are no different than the trainers who work for the abusive circus industry. Elephants, bears, lions and tigers are caged and chained, and cruelly dominated with sticks and whips until they submit and acquiesce to the trainers' demands. Food and water deprivation is another tool of the trade. When an animal doesn't follow orders, they don't get to chomp their dinner or moisten their palates. Positive reinforcement is a fantasy created by the spin doctors who enslave animals for monetary gain.

If I had a Vegas act with tigers, we could not train them without violence. Violence is a staple of the exotic animal industry. Don't forget the tigers' long and lonely hours spent in cages on and off stage. Imagine if someone locked you in your tiny bathroom for five to eight hours a night and only brought you out now and then to say "Ta-da!"

Let's not forget Siegfried and Roy also used elephants and other wild animals in their gaudy act.

Siegfried and Roy's greedy, selfish yen for fame and fortune and constant attention is, frankly, disgusting. Breeding animals into slavery, putting them on display for amusement and caging them on stage are not beneficial to endangered cats.

Any creature would choose death or even extinction over a lifetime of confinement and inanity. Nature intended them to be free. And without freedom, animals are lost in a world on confusion and chaos.

Humans, as usual, seem to believe they are on top of some fallacious pyramid of domination over the animal kingdom. But when will humans extend some simple decency to our planetary companions? All animals should be liberated from entertainment venues and we should seek to end all of our vicious traditions and practices.

It's not too late for Siegfried and Roy, though. Many former abusers of animals have transformed their lives and made amends for their past sins. John Robbins, former heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, withdrew himself from the family business in the 70s. Since then, he has dedicated his life to promoting vegan diets and animal liberation.

Howard Lyman, a former fourth generation cattle rancher, shut down his dairy and cattle farms and has been promoting veganism and animal rights for years. You may recall Lyman was the reason Oprah was sued by the Texas Cattlemen in the 90s because he convinced Oprah to remove cow meat from her diet on national TV.

Pamelyn Ferdin, former child star who was the voice of Lucy on Charlie Brown, abandoned her meat-eating ways for an ethical vegan lifestyle. She even went to jail this year on behalf of enslaved animals after a judge found her guilty of displaying a vicious elephant hook at a circus demo. She was trying to educate people about the horrible techniques used by circus folk. The judge—who sent Ferdin to jail—ruled it was okay for elephant handlers to dominate, scare and coerce elephants with razor sharp hooks, yet it was illegal for caring people—like Ferdin—to expose the weaponry used by the animal entertainment industry.

If Siegfried and Roy decide to form an all-human Vegas spectacle and stop displaying animals on stage, they can be revered as true friends to the animals. Otherwise, they will remain selfish villains who care more about themselves and their pocketbooks than the sanity and well-being of endangered felines.

Go back to the previous page Jump to the top of this page Proceed to the next page