Regular readers of this site will know that over the past few weeks, I have been discussing the alleged effectiveness of noisy, placard waving protests at increasing awareness to the plight of other animals.
In a previous piece, I compared these protests to union picket lines and how they are intimidating to the worker who is crossing the line, and portrayed as extreme by the media.
March 2013 saw two totally different ‘placard’ protests on take place on Queensland’s Gold Coast, with both protesting the treatment of exotic animals in circuses. The first one was held by relatively new, Coast To Coast Animal Friends on the 10th, and the second by the more established Animal Liberation Queensland, two weeks later on Sunday March 24.
Both protests were allegedly planned to increase awareness of the plight of exotic animals in circuses, though actually did very little of that. I still stand by my belief that these events are for the sole purpose of raising awareness of the respective groups, and nothing else. Allowing them to claim that they are doing something to improve the plight of animal x, y, or z whilst accomplishing very little.
In the weeks since the protests were held there has been virtually no information published by either group as to why they are against the way that exotic animals are treated in circuses, save for the congratulatory posting of photos, and reliving their own self indulgent moments.
Not including the self promotion, the only other mention of circuses on Coast To Coast Animal Friends’ Facebook page was the sharing of a link on Tuesday (26 March) that related to the media coverage of a similar protest in Victoria.
Animal Liberation Queensland actually fair even worse on both their website or Facebook pages. Their Facebook page sees no mention of anything circus related apart from the virtual back patting. As for the website, the section that is dedicated to circuses hasn’t been changed since 2004, if you go by the copyright notice on the footer. The media release section has no mention of the protest with the last release issued being one about the Cronulla Park protest in July of 2012, and Animal Liberation Queensland’s news section has October 2012’s ‘Ban Live Export’ rally as the most recent thing mentioned.
All that is without even talking about the protest itself. So much for wanting to raise awareness and keep the debate alive.
How a protest that forces law abiding circus goers to run the gauntlet of protestors holding placards and shouting at them is going to raise awareness and further discussion on the plight of exotic animals in circuses is still beyond me.
The protest was never going to be anything more than a farce, especially when it was suggested by Animal Liberation Queensland that George Michael’s Freedom had been adapted for the protest, and with lyrics included. (What is interesting are the comments made by an individual who is mostly vegetarian about ‘uniting in solidarity for exploited animals’ – I guess animals used for food don’t count as being exploited).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the whole event was that well thought of, or planned out.
For example, I do not believe that anyone from Animal Liberation Queensland thought about how intimidating it would be for family with young children to walk through two rows of protestors holding up placards, and shouting at them about how ‘evil’ the circus is.
As I wasn’t there to be part of the protest, the opportunity arose on more than one occasion to have a quick conversation with the circus goers about their views on both the treatment of animals and the presence of protesters. One family told me that they felt intimidated by both the two groups of protesters, and the presence of the Public Safety Response Team for such a small group of people.
The police presence alone was enough to get this family wondering if they were there to protect the circus goers from the protesters, or vice versa.
Asking this family what their thoughts were about the protesters and if they knew why they were there, they replied that they didn’t know there was even going to be a protest on as they purchased their tickets online, and that by looking at the signs they think it is something about the treatment of lions and tigers.
I then asked them if they thought the treatment of lions and tigers in circuses was cruel, and they told me they hadn’t really thought about it, and that they would let me know after they had seen the show.
When asked if they would look more into the way that animals are treated in circuses after today, and because of the presence of the protesters, both adults told me that they wouldn’t.
These answers were repeated a number of times with the different families that I approached and spoke to through out the day. It wasn’t only families who were intimidated and not interested in whatever it was that the protesters had to say, it was young teenagers who felt the same way too. Those families that did walk down the walk of shame did more from the point of not letting group of people tell them what to, especially after they had already purchased the tickets too.
Then there were the chants and females in cages to contend with.
How having three females dressed up as exotic animals, and one with a short skirt is supposed to get passers by to identify with animal being in a cage still baffles me, as it is nothing more than blatant sexism. Whilst discussing this with someone pointing out how sexist the whole thing was, and that the only way it could be more so would be to have a male there with a whip, when all of a sudden one of the males from the Coast To Coast Animal Friends team came over. He proceeded to stand there in a male dominant pose with a foot on the chair and hands on his hips whilst it appeared he was talking to the females.
[GARD]Whilst I cannot remember the exact words for both the chants, or if they sang the George Michael song, past of one of the chants contained the line “Open their cages, see if they stay”. This is a very misleading statement within itself, as an animal will usually return to the cage if that is the only life that they have known. Humans can exhibit similar behaviour in Battered Persons Syndrome, and Stockholm Syndrome. Whilst it could almost be excused that an inexperienced group like Coast To Coast Animal Friends could make that mistake, we should have thought of, and expected more from Animal Liberation Queensland.
Animal Liberation Queensland may say that the day was a success because they got to add a few names to their mailing list, a handful of brochures were handed out, and one father and son came out not long after going in. It is when we are faced with the high number of people who were not interested in hearing what they had to say on the day, and possibly in the future, that we have to ask if those small victories really made it a successful event?