My Response to the Naysayers
An Animal Rights Article from


Bryan Monell
March 2015

This is my response to someone on an animal rights list serv who refers to his/herself as a vegan abolitionist who was railing against this "so-called victory" [Ringling announcement to end the use of elephants in circuses] and how single issue campaigns don't work.

Having worked as an undercover investigator for a couple circuses as an Elephant handler and witnessed the savage beatings of Elephants on numerous occasions, I freely admit that I may have taken this one a bit more personally than most.

Like Voltaire said, Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. The world is not going vegan overnight. No animal activist is going to start supporting Ringling now. The Elephants must be released to a sanctuary away from their abusers and not three years but now. Make no doubt about it, this was a victory. This was a much bigger victory than people realize. It may involve just 13 Elephants but the symbolism is much larger.

The Elephants are being taken off the road because of the public's changing attitude which is a direct result of the work of activists like those on this list. That is exactly how we will get the world to become vegan by changing attitudes and getting people to care about animals. It is all related. Raising peoples consciousness about the plight of circus animals, fur, puppy mills, etc. helps sensitize them to the plight of farmed animals as well.

I personally know several people who came to their first demo of any kind at a circus. They were like most of the public meat eating, leather wearing men, women and children who now as a direct result of coming to the circus demo are abolitionist vegans. I have personally spoken with families who had their tickets in hand and were on their way into the circus but tore their tickets up once they were educated about the reality of what goes on behind the scenes at the circus.  Some of those families then joined us on the picket line and return year after year. They have gone vegan now. As vegans we must and do advocate for all animals all the time.  

I respectfully disagree that getting Ringling to eliminate circus elephants is low hanging fruit. In fact in my experience this has been much more difficult than getting someone to go vegan. Feld had vowed to never give up the Elephant acts. People have literally risked their lives and have almost been killed by circus employees while working on this campaign. It has taken the collective effort of countless thousands of people, grassroots and national groups to pull this off. This is progress, this is a victory. Every puppy mill shut down, every fur salon put out of business and every person who turns away from the circus is a victory and a step in the direction of a compassionate vegan world.  

Wars are won by individual battles. Movements succeed with lots of small and sometimes large steps. This is a big step. This will hasten the demise of the other animal circuses. While other animals remain enslaved and abused in the circus this was a victory for them as well. Ringling always said people come to the circus to see the Elephants and that is why they would always remain. Now they admit that is no longer the case. They cannot honestly claim people are coming to circus to see the camels tigers lions and bears. 

Make no mistake we will vigorously continue to work on behalf of the other animals as well. Indeed the tigers may actually have it even worse than the elephants in the circus. The horses are whipped all the time and I was shown how to covertly crush camels testicles at the circus to make them cry out and get people to ride them. As for the Elephants, the worst beatings usually occur during training sessions behind the scenes. I have no doubt that as long as the Elephants remain under the thumb of Ringling they will still feel the bullhook at times. They will of course be psychologically abused just by being in the vicinity of those who have beaten them in the past. But once the Elephants are off the road their lives will improve a bit. No more beatings while learning new routines and no more being chained up and locked inside of train cars. Ringling's Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) is a horrible place and we must do everything possible to free the Elephants from that hell hole. That being said, it is a definite improvement from life on the road.

I believe this announcement will energize the AR community and you will see more people protesting against Ringling and the other circuses now. I believe it will encourage more people to do vegan outreach as well. In fact, just about everyone I ever see at a circus demo I also see in the streets doing vegan outreach.

Does rescuing just one animal out of billions make a difference? Well it does to that individual. We must pour as many resources as we can into vegan outreach. Not all humane victories are in the long term best interest of animal rights, but this one definitely is.

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