To Protest Or Not To Protest. That Is The Question

This time last week, Sunday 10 March 2013, somewhere between 30 and 70 people, depending on who you listen to, gathered to attend a protest on Australia’s Gold Coast organised by Coast To Coast Animal Friends, against Lennon Brothers Circus‘ use of exotic animals.

As you can imagine with this sort of protest, there were placards, shouting, people in cages, slogans on t-shirts, an over the top police presence, and they even had a chant going.

It should be noted that the excessive police presence was explained away in the local media as a result of the organisers overestimating the number of people that would attend, and falling well short of that number.

Whilst I am unsure what the intent of the protest was, apart from getting media exposure for Coast To Coast Animal Friends and maybe air time for some of its members. I would like to think that they believed that the protest was about increasing awareness, and getting people to think about the treatment of animals in circuses. Except I would be guessing, as they were unwilling to respond when I approached them for a comment.

I was told by some of the attendees that the wearing of ‘vegan t-shirts’ was expressly forbidden, with the colours of the day being black, red or white, or their own anti-circus t-shirts —  which also happened to be available for purchase on the day.

Allegedly, the reason for not wanting vegan t-shirts worn on the day was to prevent the protestors from being portrayed as extreme, or possibly confusing the issue. This is a sentiment backed up by Animal Liberation Queensland President, Chay Neal, who added “It also draws attention away from the issue of animal circuses” (Animal Liberation Queensland are the organisers of a similar protest to be held on March 24 at the same location.)

I am a bit baffled as to how wearing a vegan or animal rights t-shirt could label an individual as extreme, whilst 30 people standing together with posters, shouting at circus goers doesn’t.

As for confusing the issue, I do believe that it is BOTH Animal Liberation Queensland, and Coast To Coast Animal Friends themselves who have confused the issue.

For example, in December of 2012, Coast To Coast Animal Friends arranged a group tattooing and march through the Gold Coast as part of their 269life campaign. The following excerpt is taken from 269life’s about page “Veganism is an essential step that any responsible and sensible person must take. Yet it is not enough.” Emphasis theirs. 

Animal Liberation Queensland seems to be just as confused too, because in January of this year in conjunction with Coalition For the Protection of Racehorses, participated in a protest against the Magic Millions Horse sale and race. Now they are protesting Lennon Bros Circus’ use of a small number of animals, yet are eerily quiet with regard to the show Cavalia’s use of 44 horses.

The media don’t care what the message is, whether it is one of veganism, an end to all animal use, or even one of increasing cage size, they will happily label anyone involved in any sort of animal discussion as an animal rights activist/group. When I asked NBN ‘journalist’ Anna Rosendahl why those attending the protest were labelled as animal rights activists when they clearly weren’t, she told me that they were because they wanted animal to be ‘safe’. When I explained to her that that had nothing to do with an animal rights based discussion, she told me that I was getting into technicalities.

I am sorry, it is these technicalities that mean the difference between an animal living in a cage or no cage at all.

It is these technicalities that when Coast To Coast Animal Friends make comments on their Facebook page such as “THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW LOUD MOUTH SLURRY FACED ,uneducated DESPERATE UNINTERESTING circus going GULAGS with shit for brains on our event page …….really sad sad individuals …well by have a nice day …” (This has since been removed), and one by their spokesperson Simone Hewitt, in reference to Goal Coast Councillor Dawn Crichlow “Dawn is mentally unstable, only be concerned when intelligent people ridicule you.” That further alienates those who are yet to ‘hear’ the vegan message, possibly turning them away from it forever, and branding us as extreme. (emphasis theirs)

I am also confused as to why these groups think that the ‘general public’ is that stupid or unintelligent that they wouldn’t realise or understand that veganism is a total boycott of animal use and oppression, yet they would be ‘smart enough’ to understand that it is ‘cruel’ to keep exotic animals in cages for the purpose of entertainment, by a few people standing around waving placards and shouting at them.

Why do these groups arrogantly believe that wasting a vegan activists limited time to protest against a circus that has ‘exotic’ animals in cages is more important that promoting veganism?

Is it more of a victory to say that they got x people to not go to the circus or ‘think about it’, than it is to say they got y people to go vegan?

Are these groups really that ashamed of being associated with veganism that they cannot openly and honestly promote it to the public? Instead believing that as alleged animal rights groups that they are beyond reproach and can promote or campaign for anything they like so long as it has something to do with the animals.

4 thoughts on “To Protest Or Not To Protest. That Is The Question”

  1. Hi Cameron,
    I would just like to say that Coast to Coast Animal Friends, have protested many times knowing they may not attract MEDIA ATTENTION. I am glad now that they did and have finally.. because without media nothing will be taken seriously, and therefore nothing will ever move forward for animals. Gold Coast Animal Friends do not seek media attention simply to gratify their own egos. Perhaps it would be a good idea if you joined one their protests and got to really know the people involved in this cause and you could then ask them all the questions you liked, remember.. that in the middle of a protest it’s not the ideal time nor place to be asking questions. They work dam hard to organise these protests, it means time and money lost to them as they all have regular day jobs. Media attention is EXACTLY what is needed. Gold Coast Animal Friends members put their jobs and families second to the welfare of animals and they are dedicated to their cause. Thankyou Cameron.

    • Hi Greta,
      Thank you for your comment.

      I was there at the protest last weekend, and as far as I can recall, it was on a Sunday, a day when people usually don’t work, so who lost money by attending? Plus it was their choice to attend, thereby how could you say they ‘lost money’?

      Based on the media reports that I have seen and read, the protest wasn’t taken seriously, nor has it encouraged others to actually talk about the use of animals other than human in circuses, past the time when the pieces were published.

      The thing that I have noticed over the years that I have been involved in the animal rights movement is that there are a lot of people who mean well, and are trying to do what they can for the animals. It is just unfortunate that they are mislead by organisations/’leaders’ who have a one track mind and are not able to think of or even accept the input of others.

      If as you say, those in Coast To Coast Animal Friends are dedicated to ‘the cause’, I guess it is safe to say that they are all vegan, though I would like to know why promoting veganism wasn’t permitted.

      After all, we know that promoting veganism and it’s social justice message has to be more effective for ALL the animals than just targeting a circus that a relatively small number of people would attend.

  2. Whilst I am not in the habit of sharing or publishing emails that I have sent to or received from others, and I have made an exception in this case because I have been accused in comments made here of selectively using “a small quote from Chay Neal’s detailed responses to your many recent questions in order to be publicly critical of both him and Animal Liberation Qld.”

    This is not the case as you will see below, with the original email being at the end of this comment.
    ===================
    Hi Cameron,

    1) What do you hope to achieve with the protest on March 24?

    Main goal is media exposure to help keep debate alive particularly here on the Gold Coast after recent council decisions and media attention. Also seek to educate circus goers and maintain momentum on the issue of animals in circuses.

    2) Coast To Coast Animal Friends grossly overestimated the number of people that would be attending the event, resulting in an excessive number of police present, along with the specialist PSRT. Will ALQ be over or underestimating the number, or as the Gold Coast media claim that 70 people attended, will they be hoping for more than that number?

    I think C2C’s estimate of up to 100 people was pretty good, rather than “grossly overestimated”. As you say, approximately 70 people turned up. It’s impossible to know exactly how many people will show up on the day and final turnout will be influenced by a number of factors – even the weather on the day. We are again hoping for up to 100 people which the police have been informed of. We have no control over police resources but have been in close discussions with them to allay any concerns they may have.

    3) It has been told to me that the organiser of last weekend’s protest prohibited the wearing of vegan related t-shirts. As Animal Liberation Queensland is an animal rights group, will there be a similar restriction placed on those attending the next protest, and if so, how can you have a discussion on animal rights without talking about veganism?

    No restriction has been put in place, but uniform theme and circus t-shirts are encouraged. Bringing veganism into it is more likely to confuse the issue in the eyes of the media and general public. It also draws attention away from the issue of animal circuses and makes it far to easy for protesters to be written off as extreme.

    4) Will the focus of the forthcoming protest be treatment/conditions or the actual use of animals?

    ALQ seek a complete ban on animal circuses.

    5) In the past ALQ has joined with the Coalition for the Protection of Race Horses to protest the Magic Millions sale, and different racing events. Is there any particular reason why ALQ has been silent on the use of 44 horses for the entertainment show Cavalia that is in Brisbane at the moment?

    None, other than capacity.

    6) A recent Brisbane Times article about Cavalia started with “Circuses used to be so much simpler, didn’t they? Kidnap a few big cats, put some monkeys in funny hats and voila, you’ve got yourself a show.These days it’s all about recognising the majesty of animals and respecting their inherent nature, as if torturing a few lions and chimps was cruel or something.” http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/cavalia-a-spectacle-saddled-with-slow-moments-20130307-2fmy2.html
    If the intent of the March 24 protest is to raise awareness of the way that those animals within the circus system are treated, hasn’t enough awareness already been raise if a mainstream journalist is saying that circuses are cruel, even if it was tongue in cheek?

    I’m not sure you can ever have “enough awareness”. Certainly we are still far from a healthy level of awareness in the community on most animal issues. Even in the last few days while promoting the upcoming circus protest on Facebook I have had comments from people that thought these kind of circuses were a thing of the past.

    Chay Neal
    President
    Animal Liberation Queensland
    ==================
    Hi there Chay,

    I am in the process of writing an article for ausvegan.com about the effectiveness of protests in getting the vegan and animal rights message heard. The protest last weekend, and the coming one to be held on 24 March will be mentioned, and as the future one is an ALQ event I am seeking your response to the following questions.

    1) What do you hope to achieve with the protest on March 24?

    2) Coast To Coast Animal Friends grossly overestimated the number of people that would be attending the event, resulting in an excessive number of police present, along with the specialist PSRT. Will ALQ be over or underestimating the number, or as the Gold Coast media claim that 70 people attended, will they be hoping for more than that number?

    3) It has been told to me that the organiser of last weekend’s protest prohibited the wearing of vegan related t-shirts. As Animal Liberation Queensland is an animal rights group, will there be a similar restriction placed on those attending the next protest, and if so, how can you have a discussion on animal rights without talking about veganism?

    4) Will the focus of the forthcoming protest be treatment/conditions or the actual use of animals?

    5) In the past ALQ has joined with the Coalition for the Protection of Race Horses to protest the Magic Millions sale, and different racing events. Is there any particular reason why ALQ has been silent on the use of 44 horses for the entertainment show Cavalia that is in Brisbane at the moment?

    6) A recent Brisbane Times article about Cavalia started with “Circuses used to be so much simpler, didn’t they? Kidnap a few big cats, put some monkeys in funny hats and voila, you’ve got yourself a show.These days it’s all about recognising the majesty of animals and respecting their inherent nature, as if torturing a few lions and chimps was cruel or something.” http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/cavalia-a-spectacle-saddled-with-slow-moments-20130307-2fmy2.html
    If the intent of the March 24 protest is to raise awareness of the way that those animals within the circus system are treated, hasn’t enough awareness already been raise if a mainstream journalist is saying that circuses are cruel, even if it was tongue in cheek?

    I will be publishing the piece in the next few days, and would like to feature your response to the above questions in it.

    Regards,
    Cameron Blewett

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