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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

No Animals Were Harmed in this Art Show

Published 09/05/08
By Sharie Lesniak, Vice President of Marketing

The 2nd Annual Circus Show & Other Atrocities!You ever have one of those projects that you’re working on and it’s so big, yet it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and there’s just so much to do that every time you check off an item on your to-do list there are three more that get added and you’re just running and running, working on the project from morning to night, even dreaming about it when you do sleep, but you’re afraid if you stop and sit down you won’t be able to get up, so you just keep going and going like this long run-on sentence? Whew, I’m in the midst of one of those projects now — The 2nd Annual Circus Show & Other Atrocities! But with only 8 days to go from this posting — there is an end in sight! (And know that you’re all invited to attend because it’s going to be so worth all the work and such a good time for all and benefit the animals!)

And you all know what keeps us going. It’s the saying that, while I loathe to hear it, really does push us all further, “The animals never get a day off.” And in this case, we know this to be true as newly obtained evidence based on Ringling’s own documents that they keep their elephants virtually immobilized in chains for the majority of their lives. Internal records gleaned from our case against Ringling Bros. show that their elephants are chained while confined in boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for as much as 60–100 hours, as the circus moves across the country.

“Can you imagine being chained for 100 hours in a boxcar!” These are the kinds of thoughts that push us to stay up late and work on projects that we feel will help open people’s minds to the plight of performing animals. Open people’s minds? Ahh ... now how the heck do we do that?!

If you’re like me, your first thought is to take the Dennis Kucinich route with a passionate plea to “Wake up America!” (I mean really, how can people in 2008 still be buying tickets to animal circuses?!) But we know that yelling and shaking sense into people is usually not the best way to get them to stop and listen. So if you’re an artist like Gale Hart, your thought is to reach people though art — and here is the beauty of The Circus Show and what makes it so powerful.

One of the hardest parts of speaking out for the animals is to get people to just stop and listen to what we have to say ... just get them to stop and think for a moment. The key to getting attention in this busy, overworked, overstimulated, mile-a-minute country in which we live, is to know what moves the person you’re trying to reach. And the beauty of this art show is that the more than 100 national and international artists who are participating used a bountiful array of messages and emotions to reach different people in different ways to get them to stop and think about the plight of circus animals. And you know what? When people stop and think, they agree with us; wild animals should not be used in traveling shows.

To get the community’s attention, Hart used the same ploy as the Circus does, appealing to people to come to the show and “have fun.” Many artists in the show use humor to get people to stop and think (ha ha! And ha ha!). Many others captured the immense sadness of wild animals held captive and not just in a visual way.

Would you chain your dog?And when we at Born Free USA united with API reach out to people on behalf of animals in the circus, we too work to craft strategic messages that a specific target audience can relate to. For example, we discovered through an online survey that our target audience was more likely to stop and think about the plight of circus animals when it was related to the plight of their own family dog.

Yep, there truly is something for everyone — and thus, some way to reach everyone! Just one more reminder that one message about an animal issue does not fit all. (If you want more information about how people feel about the animal issue you’re working on so you can reach them better, visit www.humanespot.org and gain access to the world’s most comprehensive research resource for animal advocates).

And you know what? Not only is there an end in sight for all the people working on The Circus Show, but I really feel that there is an end in sight for wild animals in circuses in our lifetime. The Circus Show will help move us closer to that end, but the big day that will move us light years ahead is October 20, when the elephants get their day in court! And you can add our Ringling’s-day-in-court countdown to your website or MySpace page so you can join us in counting the days and then keeping updated on the trial.

Artistically yours,


PS. And remember, please do take a day off! Remember the other saying, “You’re no good to the animals if you’re burnt out!” Actually, I just had a local activist tell me that writing a haiku for the elephants was cathartic for her. So that might be a good way for you to get creative and take a little break. And you could win a wonderful CD! And listening to music and watching music videos are great ways to relax and take some time for yourself.

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