On August 10, 2004, citizens of Denver, Colorado, voted nearly 3-1 to keep the circus in town.
The ban was placed on the ballot through an initiative drive spearheaded by a high school student and backed by the Humane Society of the US and other groups that oppose the use of animals in entertainment. Anti-circus advocates using propaganda promoted by animal rights groups gathered enough signatures to force city council to give voters the final say.
Seventy-two percent said "No" to the ban that would force Ringling Brothers and other circuses to avoid the mile-high city.
Feld Entertainment, the operating company for Ringling, supported opposition to the ban with $175,000. Ringling has been performing in Denver since 1919. Feld supported the Keep the Circus in Denver Committee, which included some city council members and the city's chamber of commerce.
As usual, the ban campaign focused on the few cases of animal injury or death to convince voters that circuses are unsafe for animals and just in case that tack failed, they spread the propaganda that circus animals are mistreated by trainers, improperly housed, and forced to perform whether they want to or not.
The Outdoor Amusement Business Association compiled the following information that belies the propaganda.
"Animal activist groups have been very vocal critics of circuses with animals, citing everything from danger of rampaging elephants to the threat of contracting tuberculosis from circus elephants. If these false claims are challenged, they resort to the argument that you shouldn't patronize circuses as they mistreat their animals. The 'documentation' they provide consists of a few old, altered videotapes and inspection reports taken out of context."
OABA and other sources provide the following to counter the claims of animal rights radicals:
Agencies such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the USDA organized National Tuberculosis Working Group confirm that there is not one documented case of a member of the general public being infected with TB from a circus elephant or other circus animal.
Insurance companies that insure the majority of circus elephant operators have stated in writing that this is not a liability-ridden industry. Behavioral problems with the elephants account for few claims; the remainder involve accidents on the loading platform.
Additionally, some of the members of the public who alleged injury did not submit their claims to insurance companies or litigate or ask to get medical bills paid.
Behavioral specialist Dr. Ted Friend of Texas A&M University has concluded that 'the physical and psychological welfare of circus elephants is not as a rule inferior to that of other animal husbandry systems in zoos, stables, kennels or farms.'
Animal behaviorist Dr. Marthe Kiley-Worthington was commissioned by the RSPCA and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare in Britain to study circus animals in comparison with animals in zoos and in the wild. After 3000 hours of observation, she concluded that "On balance, I do not think that the animals best interests are necessarily served by money and activities diverted to try and ban circuses and zoos either locally or nationally. What is much more important is to continue to encourage the zoos and circuses to improve their animal welfare along the lines recommended."
Although a number of US communities have banned circus acts with animals, there are signs that the campaign to destroy these acts is stalling. On August 24, 2004, a federal district court judge granted an injunction to Ringling to control the picketing and demonstrations of animal rights activists during the circus dates in San Jose, California. The injunction limits the number of demonstrators at the pavilion where the performances take place, requires that they remain peaceful and polite, forbids videotaping of circus-related activities, and allows security guards to remove those who violate these restrictions.
In Windsor, Ontario, Canada, a supreme court judge declared a law prohibiting exotic animal acts to be illegal, paving the way for circuses to return to the city. The judge determined that the city had done no research to confirm its contention that exotic animals were a threat to public safety and that in fact insurance industry statistics show very little risk to patrons. Canada had no incidents of patron injuries in the past 10 years.
The British borough of West Norfolk has also rescinded a ban placed on circus performances on council-owned land after it was determined that council had no authority to ban activities based on moral grounds. The ban was put in place in 1997. In the future, circuses applying for permission to use council land will be judged individually.
The Trojan horse of animal protectionism: The battle over curriculum
Our future will be determined by the children
Virtually every medical advance has used animals in some stage of research or testing. Thus, whether medical progress continues at the same pace in the next century depends upon an informed public supporting the continued use of animals in responsible research and testing. Let us hope that the children of today make their decisions tomorrow using a moral value system that distinguishes between humans and animals and between animal welfare and animal rights.
Some groups have taken a direct approach and clearly label their curriculum as animal rights. They mislead students about issues of animal abuse. Adrian Morrison, the director of animal issues for the National Institutes of Mental Health, summed up their approach best when he said: “Everyone has the right to believe a rat is due the same moral consideration as a child. What is wrong, though, is the promotion of beliefs among the untutored by dishonest presentations of the ways animals are used by humans. Such tactics have, in fact, been used to discredit biomedical research using animals – tactics that were a necessary prelude to the current campaign against biology education: Convince people that animals are badly used in one sphere and reap carry-over benefits from this ‘softening up’ process when you focus on another arena.”1
Other animal rights groups have elected a devious approach – a secret battle. They disguise their goals and methods by disavowing the methods of the militant animal rights movement. Instead of ‘animal rights,’ they call their curriculum ‘humane and environmental education.’ They avoid the term ‘animal rights’ but teach the same value system. Most educators are unaware of this deception. Teachers welcome humane education as a means to prevent violent behavior in some students and environmental curriculum as a means to develop a sensitivity to the environment. More than 20,000 teachers nationwide have bought into this program.
Have their school efforts been successful? Several different student polls have shown steady gains for the acceptance of the animal rights philosophy. The most alarming of these was a 1993 national Gallop poll which demonstrated that 60 percent of American teenagers “support animal rights,” including bans on all laboratory and medical tests that use animals. How have they been able to produce such a striking change in attitude?
The Humane Society of the US with its 1.5 million members calls itself the nation’s largest animal protection organization. Few people know that the HSUS animal protection philosophy is not animal welfare but an animal rights philosophy that says it is morally wrong for humans to use or kill animals and that they have been guided by that philosophy since 1980.2
Furthermore, HSUS has set as its goal the abolition of animals in laboratory research and education.3,4,5 In recent years, HSUS elected to call themselves ‘animal protectionists’ to disassociate their group from the bad press that the Animal Liberation Front and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have brought to the animal rights movement. HSUS shares the same animal rights philosophy and goal of abolishing the use of animals in laboratory research as militant animal rights groups, but they differ in tactics and timetable for reaching that goal. Their tactic is to slowly but progressively wean society away from using animals.
In order to avoid the extremist label HSUS has deliberately sought to project a ‘moderate’ image and hide the animal rights message under animal protectionism and the guise of humane and environmental education. Many of the HSUS projects are laudable and could be described as animal welfare. They work very hard to keep that image. Corporate donations and the respect of the education community are dependant on that image. However, their hidden agenda is to get people to give animals the same respect they give humans. What better method to accomplish a change in societal values than by incorporating it into a nationwide elementary school curriculum on humane and environmental education?
Is HSUS a Trojan Horse being covertly carried into the citadel of elementary education?6
HSUS has endeavored to establish itself as The Authority in humane and environmental education. Indeed, the organization has won several awards for KIND News; has had the Adopt-a-Teacher program placed in the 1992 Environmental Success Index; and had a field representatives appointed to the prestigious National Environmental Education Advisory Council of the Environmental Protection Agency.
To help establish this reputation, HSUS created the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, a separate youth education division. NAHEE had a 1992 budget of $940,000 and 14 full-time staff , an increase of 31 percent over the 1991 budget. The goals for NAHEE were articulated in the 1992 HSUS annual report: “ ... NAHEE strives to ensure that humane attitudes become a viable part of mainstream education and environmental perspectives. ... NAHEE continues to monitor and evaluate new children’s books, children’s magazines, and newspapers as well as all major elementary and secondary teaching magazines and newspapers to encourage the promotion of humane values in publications other than our own.”7
Indeed, NAHEE has been successful in influencing other publications as evidenced by a series of three grossly misleading articles biased against using animals in medical research which appeared in the nine-million circulation Weekly Reader and its companion for middle schools Current Science.6 NAHEE’s influence even extends beyond the USA as they have sent their educational materials to 13 foreign countries.
It is clear that HSUS has been acknowledged as The Authority and is being warmly welcomed through the educational gates of Troy by unsuspecting teachers and administrators who thought they weregetting ‘humane and environmental education’ but ended up with those elements mixed with a subtle animal rights message that says it is wrong for humans to kill, capture, or use animals for any reason. It is a message that elevates respect for animals to the same plane as respect for humans. This is a brilliant tactic as respect and consideration for animals is a hallmark of animal welfare. HSUS has reduced the difference between animal rights and animal welfare to the degree of respect and consideration given animals, thus blurring the difference between the two.
KIND News, KIND Teacher
NAHEE’s primary effort is directed at publishing and distributing a classroom newspaper covering laudable humane and environmental themes laced with a heavy dose of respect for animals, endangered species, and an emphasis on not harming animals.
Kids In Nature’s Defense (KIND News) is published at three reading levels for children in grades one through six and is read by more than 600,000 children in 20,000 classrooms nationwide. KIND News does not cover controversial animal rights issues. However, the accompanying teachers’ guide (KIND Teacher) brings up animal rights issues without identifying them as such. KIND Teacher indoctrinates children by having the teacher lead discussions on the use of animals in dissection, the use of wild animals in laboratory research, the use of animals in product safety testing, the keeping of wild animals in zoos and circuses, the capture and sale of wild birds, hunting, trapping, and rodeos.8 KIND Teacher also promotes the students to form KIND Clubs and engage in club projects. The nature of the project and the agenda is determined by the club and club president. Given the HSUS emotional and strongly–held position on these issues, can we expect a balanced presentation?
HSUS Student Action Guide
The HSUS Student Action Guide, NAHEE’s newspaper for middle and secondary students, is more direct as it openly seeks to promote activism by forming Earth-Animal Protection Clubs. These clubs target a number of animal rights issues, including laboratory animal research, product safety testing, dissection, animals in science fairs, zoos, animals in entertainment, hunting, trapping, and dolphin-safe tuna. The students are referred to HSUS to obtain specific misleading materials on these issues as well as animal research and so-called alternatives to animal research.
California’s environmental education
Given this background, I was concerned when I learned through the 1992 HSUS annual report that “Materials published by NAHEE such as ‘Sharing Sam’ and lessons from KIND Teacher had been incorporated into A Child’s Place in the Environment, California’s new environmental education curriculum guide. The guide promises to have a substantial impact since one out of nine children in the US attends schools in California. In addition, the guide will inevitably serve as a model nationwide.”
NAHEE and animal rights in California’s school curriculum
In 1993, I obtained a late stage draft of the first grade edition of the guide Respecting Living Things from the California Board of Education. Fortunately, the guide had not been finalized and was still in draft form. I was surprised to find that three out of the nine guide reviewers were affiliated with NAHEE and one NAHEE field representative was on the guide committee.
The guide had a pronounced animal rights bias as half the recommended resources at the end of several units were animal rights books such as The Animal Rights Handbook: 67 Ways to Save the Animals by Anna Sequoia and Animal Rights International, The Animals’ Agenda, and Going Green, A Kid’s Handbook to Saving the Planet. These resources contained grossly misleading and dishonest presentations of how animals are used by humans and in some cases gory pictures of animals that are totally inappropriate for first graders. Furthermore, more than half the resources listed as “organizations concerned with humane treatment of animals” turned out to be animal rights organizations such as HSUS, NAHEE, the Fund for Animals, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Animal Protection Institute of America. The guide also suggested additional names of humane organizations listed in the book 67 Ways to Save the Animals. There were 77 organizations listed in the book and all 77 were identified by the author as ‘animal rights organizations.’
Respect = sacred reverence for animals
A common theme that ran through the unit on Respecting Living Things was that animals were anthropomorphized and respected to the point that they were elevated to the same plane as humans. Animals were held in such reverence that they were equal to humans. Another theme that was repeated many times was that out of respect for animals, they should not be captured and taken into the classroom for study. The theme “Look, Learn, and Leave Alone” was inviolate. It was even stressed in the teacher preparation section not to capture animals (including insects) for classroom study.
The source of these themes is hard to determine. Were they placed there by the guide’s author? How much influence did NAHEE have on the author or this curriculum? It is interesting to note that Are You A Good Kind Lion, the one poem that NAHEE contributed, contained a line that is the heart of the animal rights message: “Don’t hurt the animals for any reason.” Would that message tell first graders that it is morally wrong to eat animals?
Working with the California Biomedical Research Association, we took our concerns to the California State Board of Education. We were successful in deleting all the animal rights organizations and books as resources prior to the guide’s publication in 1994. We were also successful in deleting the NAHEE poem “Are You A Good Kind Lion.” Furthermore, the prohibition against capturing animals for classroom examination was replaced with a discussion on the proper methods of capturing and caring for animals.
Although our partial success was heartening, this episode graphically illustrates how close animal rights activists came to having their philosophy accepted as part of the nation’s largest and most influential humane and environmental education curricula. The educational community needs to be alerted to the hidden agenda of “animal protection” organizations. Local humane societies, APHE, and animal rights in schools.
Another source of concern is the local humane societies that have been hijacked and taken over by animal rights activists. They have also developed educational curricula with animal rights propaganda and have been taking it into the schools for many years.
The Association of Professional Humane Educators (formerly known as the Western Humane and Environmental Educators’ Association), a group that is often affiliated with HSUS and NAHEE, is comprised of education officials from at least 21 western humane societies and SPCAs, most of them located in California.
APHE provides a framework for these educators to network and share classroom material on animal rights along with humane and environmental themes. For example, on March 15-16, 1994, APHE (then known as WHEEA) held its annual meeting in San Diego, California. The keynote speaker was Kim Sturla of the Fund for Animals, a national animal rights organization. Two HSUS representatives were in attendance to promote KIND News and Adopt-a-Teacher programs.
The Packrat, the APHE Newsletter, is a bulletin board for animal rights educational material from a large number of animal rights groups such as the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Animals’ Agenda, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Rights Information Service, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, Fund for Animals, HSUS, Last Chance for Animals, NAHEE, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PeTA Teachers Network, Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the United Coalition of Iditarod Animal Rights Volunteers.
Most humane societies have one or more education officers who go to schools and teach children about proper pet care, humane treatment of animals, endangered species, and environmentalism. Because most teachers perceive the local humane society to be an animal welfare organization, they are welcomed by the schools. APHE members take advantage of this relationship to introduce an animal rights message along with their regular presentations. For example, the Peninsula Humane Society of San Mateo, California, publishes an informative unit on endangered species. However, at the end of the unit, they urge students to read animal rights books, join animal rights organizations, write politicians about animal rights issues, sign petitions about animal rights issues, boycott specific companies that do product safety testing on animals, and boycott products made from animal skins, fur, or other parts. They also provide grossly misleading information on animal research.
Animal rights and New Age religion
If the Catholic Church had set out to indoctrinate public school children with a new moral system imbedded in a humane and environmental curriculum, there would have been a huge outcry and controversy. A religious cult is indoctrinating public school children, but there is little outcry or controversy because the religious overtones and the value system have been masked. The religion is called New Age; the value system is animal rights.
Thomas Berry, an ‘ecotheologian’ and the ‘spiritual guide’ for the HSUS Center for Respect of Life and the Environment, was one of several of the speakers at the HSUS 1992 annual meeting who focused on New Age themes of total reverence and respect for animals and the environment because the spirit of God was in the whole universe equally.
Although totally open about the spiritual and religious aspects of their movement in the annual meeting, HSUS is careful not to present its KIND News as part of a religious movement. In his book What Are They Trying to Do to Us? The Truth about the Animal Rights Movement and the New Age, Bernard Palmer illustrated that the animal rights movement takes on the fundamental tenets of the New Age religion. Furthermore, Rod and Patti Strand make a similar observation about the religious nature of animal rights in their book The Hijacking of the Humane Movement. Both books make the case that the energy that propels the movement is the faithful volunteers spreading the gospel of respect and sacred reverence for animals.
What can you do? Get involved!
Give a copy of this article to your friends.
See if your school subscribes to KIND News and check your school’s curriculum on humane and environmental education.
Find out if local humane societies are invited to give presentations and if these presentations contain animal rights propaganda.
Ask to see the material and teachers guides.
Alert your child’s teachers, administrators, and school board about animal rights messages hidden in humane and environmental curriculum.
Volunteer at your local school.
If animals rights is discussed, make sure that a balanced discussion of the issue is presented.
Check the school library for books presenting both viewpoints.
Encourage your professional society, institution, or employer to support education programs that present the use of animals by society in a balanced manner. (The Massachusetts Society for Medical Research has produced such a program entitled People and Animals: United for Health Teaching Curriculum. Contact MSMR at www.msmr.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (978) 251-1556 (phone) or (978) 251-7683 (fax).
From the beginning, NAIA has been about values.
NAIA supporters value human life, human health, and the development of uplifting human potential. And while they claim subservience of other animal species to humankind, they value the well-being of animals, the preservation of animal species, and the active protection of animals from inhumane treatment.
NAIA supporters value the rule of law and the active resistance against all who attempt to destroy others through illegal and unethical means.
Against this backdrop of values, I'd like to share with you my experience in challenging fourth and fifth grade students to explore their own values about people and animals. The experiences were eye-opening and point to a great deal of work that must be done to shape the values of the rising generation.
During the 1980s, I served as community information director for Multnomah County Animal Control in Oregon. Frequently I was invited to speak to students in school classrooms. I found that by the time most students were into fourth grade, they were intellectually mature enough to sort out some fairly abstract concepts from purely emotional responses. I used the excellent values chart present in an issue of Community Animal Control as a discussion format.
The chart is a continuum line. At the far left, statements that reflect values that place humans as absolute masters over all animal species with no responsibility toward any animal and the right to subject animals to any degree of suffering and wanton killing depending on the human's pleasure and will.
At the far right, statements reflect values that place animals on a par with humans. That is, any animal has rights equal to any human's life. Any animal life is as valuable and worthwhile as human life. Humans have no right to exploit animals in any way. Pet ownership, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, etc. are all immoral. All humans must be vegans.
All other values fall somewhere along the continuum between these opposing absolute points.
After making sure the students understood the concept of a continuum. I would describe a variety of human-animal relationships and then ask students to indicate where their values lie on each relationship.
First, I described the Draize testing of rabbits for cosmetic purposes. I then asked whether a person's vanity justified subjecting rabbits to the testing protocol. Almost without exception, the students saw no justification when vanity squared off against an animal's suffering.
Next I described the testing of various substances on laboratory animals that eventually led to the virtual elimination of formerly widespread crippling and fatal diseases. For most students, the benefits to humans - especially children- from such testing seemed to justify laboratory animals' suffering, but the students felt uncomfortable about the need for animal testing to achieve those benefits.
Clearly we had moved from something that was pretty black-and-white to the students to something that was at least light gray.
To refine where their values on animal testing were, I personalized the testing on laboratory animals.
"What if your mother (or father or a sibling) became very ill and would die in six months unless a surgeon mastered a new delicate technique on dogs so he could save her life, and some of the dogs would suffer and die in the process?"
Well, under this scenario, their values shifted to strongly favoring animal testing.
It was then time to help the students more precisely pinpoint where their values fell on the continuum. I next asked, "Do you know what AIDS is?" They assured me that they did.
"What if a new medicine held great promise for a cure of AIDS but it needed to be tested on laboratory animals and some of the animals would most likely suffer and die. Would testing to cure people of AIDS be justified?"
I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming response of these fourth and fifth graders.
"No," they said. "People with AIDS brought it on themselves, so let them suffer."
I pursued their response. "Are you saying that testing animals for the effectiveness of a new drug to cure the AIDS of, let's say, a drug addict who borrowed a used needle contaminated with the AIDS virus is not justified?"
There was an emphatic "Yes!"
"Did the drug addict do a stupid thing?"
"So he should suffer and die because of doing a stupid thing?"
"Hmmm. Let's see. Everyone who has never done a stupid thing, please raise your hand."
No hands went up.
"So each of you should always suffer for the stupid things you do, no matter how severe the suffering might be - even if it ends in death?"
They were struggling to sort out the relationship between "black and white" and "stupid things." Slowly they verbalized their thinking, which went something like, "Well, no one gets really hurt much by the stupid things we do, but the addicts know they're doing something dangerous."
"But," I countered, "no matter the degree of danger it causes, stupid is stupid. When you do something stupid, wouldn't you like a second chance to change things"
They agreed they would.
"What about drug addicts? Should they get a second chance?"
Mixed response. One popular view that emerged was that animal testing should not be used in this case and maybe drug addicts would volunteer to be tested.
One bright student observed that "Drug addicts don't really change. They'll go back to drugs and eventually kill themselves. So why cause animals to suffer for them?"
The classroom sessions lasted two consecutive periods. Room parents and teachers were enthusiastic about the experiences the students had just gone through. They had never seen children in a group struggle within themselves and with each other over values.
We never resolved the values issue about drug addicts, but that wasn't the purpose. The purpose was to get students to look at their own values critically.
Each student was given a handout sheet to take home. The sheet covered the main issues the students had considered in the classroom and then encouraged family members to explore their own values regarding animals and our relationship to them.