“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel
Over the past two weekends, my husband and I participated in peaceful demonstrations against Ringling Brothers Circus. It was only last year when I learned about the horrible cruelty of the circus, so I felt passionate about sharing what I know now with others through these protests. With it being so recent that I had changed my heart and mind about circuses, I felt like I was able to relate to many of the people that were lining up to see the elephants under the big top.
During the first protest, we weren’t allowed near the front of the building, so we had to stand on the side of the road, hoping to capture the attention of the patrons driving in to the venue. The second protest was at Philips Arena in the city of Atlanta and it was much easier to interact with the circus-goers. Talking to people – or even just making eye contact with people who were reading the sign I was holding – was an incredible experience.
I went out there knowing that we couldn’t change people overnight, but was hopeful that we could plant seeds and inform the public about what happens behind the scenes at Ringling. So, you can imagine when we actually made a positive impact on several people, how ecstatic I felt.
One lady had talked to one of my fellow protesters before she went in. When she came back out after the show, she started telling me about how she had been going to the circus since she was four years old and this was the worst one in which she had ever been. She said that the tigers were cowering and that it was just incredibly sad. She went on to tell me that she didn’t know about the abuse and cruelty before that day and that she never wanted to go back. I told her that I knew exactly how she felt and that I had felt the same when I left the Big Apple Circus for the last time. She took a box full of coloring books for her daughter’s school, as well as some leaflets. We not only changed her heart, but we also got a new activist on board!
Another guy came out with his unfinished popcorn and said he took a look at the animals and couldn’t stay after knowing that they were tortured. He left before the show even started! We gave him high fives and hugs, and it was absolutely moving to see how someone could change their mind so quickly after being exposed to the truth.
As a girl and her partner were walking by our signs, she had her mouth wide open exclaiming how horrible and sad the pictures were. They got in line and then about five or ten minutes later they came back and said, “You guys win; we’re not going.” I handed them leaflets with more information and my husband told them to look up the Alec Baldwin video on PETA’s website because it had great content. We thanked them for changing their minds – I’ll never forget that moment.
I’m not upset at those who went to the circus because I was once in their shoes. Now, I’m awakened to the truth and understand the awfulness of circuses, and I can only hope that others will eventually change too.
I came across the video below over the weekend and thought it was incredibly moving. Footage like this reminds me why I’m an animal rights activist and why I protest companies like Ringling – to have joyous endings such as this one presented in the video. The narrator of the video made a remark that moved me to tears about the now free elephants that are featured in this clip: “They are comrades, survivors in a captive world.”
If you want to learn more about Shirley the elephant, the first part of this video can be found here.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a new recipe to share today; however, if you’d like some new dishes to make for Meatless Monday, head on over to JL Goes Vegan and see the awesome meal plans that she puts together each week.