The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

PETA Protests Mithcell Elementary School For Circus

This is why it is SO important for people to educate others and our children. Our children are the future for these animals. What we teach our children today will reflect on how they treat and respect our animals in the future. There's no excuse for not getting an education on the treatment of circus animals; Elephants, Tigers, Chimpanzees etc. when PETA has many videos on their site that shows what is being done to our animals, along with many other videos found on the internet.


TAMPA - A make-believe elephant, with bandages and a pinkish head wound, made some parents angry, but Ellie the elephant also got some hugs and at least one-high five from students leaving Mitchell Elementary School this afternoon.

The bloodied "elephant" is part of a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to boycott circuses. The animal rights group today sent a press release announcing that Ellie would hand out a comic, "An Elephant's Life," and coloring book, "Animals Belong in the Jungle," to children and parents as school ended for the day.

"We think it's asinine," said parent Joyce Ryan as she and a dozen or so parents waited outside the school's gate. And parent L.J. Smith said, "If they have an issue, take it somewhere else, not by little children."

But 8-year-old Sophia Calvo and her brother Tony, 5, were happy to have the comic and coloring book. They were picked up at school by their grandfather Louis Valle. "It's not a bother at all," Sophia Calvo said. "I care about animals all the time."

The school used its rainy day dismissal policy, which requires parents go to their child's classroom for pick up.

PETA alleges that the pachyderms are jabbed with spiked metal bullhooks to make them execute tricks during performances.

Janice Aria, who is the circus's director of animal stewardship, denies that any circus animals are mistreated.

"Come to the circus and see for yourself," Aria said.

The circus, which will be in Tampa Jan. 6-10, invites families to a pre-show event to talk with performers and get an up-close view of the animals, including elephants, she said.

Mitchell Elementary was chosen for the event because PETA believes it is representative of children in the community, said David Shirk, a Norfolk, Va.-based PETA supporter.

PETA representatives typically call the school to offer a presentation inside the building. Mitchell "did not take us up on it," Shirk said. "We're just trying to reach as many kids as we can. We should give kids credit. They know it's wrong to abuse animals."

Mitchell Principal Joanne Baumgartner said a letter was sent home to parents Monday regarding PETA's event.

"Yes there are concerns. We wanted our parents to know what was happening," Baumgartner said. "It's a shame that they have to do this as our school will be getting out for the day."

Hillsborough school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said she had never heard of PETA holding this type of activity at local public schools. The Tampa Police Department's Special Operations division notified the school last Wednesday about PETA's plan.

A local PETA member in a furry elephant suit greeted children and parents on the public sidewalk outside Mitchell. PETA campaign coordinator Amanda Fortino helped hand out literature. "We've had a great response here today," she said. "Everyone wants to take a picture and to hug Ellie."

Police officers monitored the event, directing PETA representatives to keep the elephant moving along the sidewalk. At one point an officer said the elephant could not have contact with the children but that didn't stop some from walking right up to Ellie and giving it a hug.

Some parents responded as well, saying "how cute" and "did you say hi to the elephant?"

The idea is to show children how elephants are "routinely beaten and abused by the circus," said Shirk, who was not at the school.

"Kids love animals, so if they knew they were beaten and forced to perform, they wouldn't have anything to do with the circus," Shirk said.

Parent Gayle Lambert said she did not have a problem with PETA's protest. "I think it's best to be educated. I don't know if I agree with their material. I haven't read it yet," she said.

Aria said she began with Ringling as a clown then later worked with the elephants. She is also a former public school teacher.

"I feel so protective of kids in school, getting accurate information … not some hideous cartoon version," she said. "It's tough to fight stuff like this. I'm amazed they would go that extreme."

Elephants are trained to respond first to voice cues, but Aria said sometimes in crowds amid loud noises the elephants can't hear their cues. The bullhooks have been drastically refined and standardized over the years and do not harm the elephants, Aria said. "It's very effective. You can't misuse it. It's a common-sense issue," she said.

BornFree USA has sued Ringling Bros. in federal court hoping for a ruling that the use of bullhooks and the chaining up of Asian elephants, which are endangered, violates the Endangered Species Act. A six-week trial in Washington, D.C., concluded in March but no decision has been issued.

A similar case involving chimpanzee's reached settlement, said Nicole Paquette, attorney and senior vice president of BornFree USA United with Animal Protection Institute. She believes this is the first case involving the Endangered Species Act heard at trial, Paquette said.

PETA plans to organize a similar protest today at Southside Elementary in Sarasota, with more to follow at schools in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.

Reporter Kathy Steele can be reached at (813) 259-7652. Reporter Sherri Ackerman can be reached at (813) 259-7144.


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