The cause of animal rights has seen much progress in the last decade, in part due to the efforts of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Cosmetics companies have largely abandoned animal testing, for example, and even some pharmaceutical companies have adopted cruelty-free processes for testing medicines.
PETA's "Tiger Lady," Brandi Valladolid, will be caged on Monument Circle Wednesday to protest the Indianapolis shows of the Ringling Bros. Circus.
But PETA feels there is still much to be done and so, in advance of the Indianapolis appearance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the organization will hold a protest at Monument Circle at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
PETA's "Tiger Lady," Brandi Valladolid, will crouch in a cage wearing nothing but shackles and covered in "scars" and "bruises" to illustrate what she says is illustrative of the suffering animals face at the hands of the Ringling Bros. trainers.
"The animals are always trained by violence because there's simply no way to get a 12 ton elephant to stand on her head through commands alone," she said. "This is done by force by bullhooks, with shock prods and whips. Elephants in circuses, despite the beatings alone, are kept in confinement for 90 percent of their lives. That's basically every minute they're not in the performing ring."
She says, "People don't realize that when they see an elephant in a circus, what they're seeing is a wind-up toy. Elephants are amazingly complex animals with very sophisticated social needs that aren't met by the circus."
PETA is against all circuses which feature animals, not just the Ringling Bros. Valladolid urges parents to not expose their children to what she said is incredible cruelty and violence.
"If you want to show your children what animals are like in the wild," she said, "take them to an IMAX film. Rent a National Geographic video. It's infinitely more interesting and educational than seeing them perform repetitive and silly tricks in a performing ring."
She says, "Ringling Bros. targets children in their advertising specifically. If children could see the shock prods and the whips, they would never want to go to the circus."
And while crouching nearly nude in a cage may seem like an unusual way to protest animal cruelty, Valladolid defends it as a way to obtain free media attention for PETA, a group with few cash resources, she says.
"Ringling Bros. has the money to buy billboards and ads that paint a very rosy view of the circus. We have to do interesting and quirky things to grab the public's attention. We don't have their advertising budget."
The 24-year-old Valladolid says she used to love going to the circus as a child. "I went because of the elephants and I even rode an elephant once," she says. "Even as an 8-year-old, I felt very badly about it. This animal was alone, in a pen, and they had her tethered by the ankles. She was shackled to a steel track and just walked around for a circle. Even then, I recognized there was something not right about that. There was a man with a bullhook, hitting her on the leg."
She said PETA received calls all the time from circus-goers shocked by the treatment animals receive in circuses. "One woman's kids were upset because the trainer used a shock prod on the elephant in the performing ring, and the elephant defecated and had a hard time continuing to move. The kind of things kids see at the circus, when they see the animals being hit and whipped, they don't go unnoticed."
Valladolid says, "I think that's an important thing for parents to think about. Children are naturally very sympathetic to animals and they are very aware of when they are being hurt."
She was in Indianapolis performing a similar protest in 2002 and vows to continue her work until circuses cease using animals in performances.
In a statement on its Web site, and in its advertising, Ringling Bros. denies using unnecessarily cruel tactics with its animals and points to the large number of elephants born to circus animals.
Valladolid counters by claiming 19 elephants died in the circus' custody. "They boast about their captive births, while simultaneously concealing their animal deaths."
For more information on PETA, visit www.peta.org or www.circuses.com.