Posts Tagged ‘Animal Defenders International’

Reflections on the 2012 Genesis Awards and the Elephant Summit

Friday, March 30th, 2012

This past week, I had the opportunity to meet many animal lovers at the 2012 Genesis Awards in Los Angeles and the 2012 Summit for Elephants at the Oakland Zoo.

The 2012 Genesis Awards were very exciting since “The Eyes of Thailand” won an ACE Documentary Film Award from the Humane Society of the United States. It was wonderful to meet everyone at the Humane Society, the other award winners, and also other people dedicating their lives to be a voice for the animals.

There were a LOT of speeches over the two-day event, but the two quotes that stood out the most to me were actually responses that we can all use when someone asks, “Why are you working so hard to help the animals when people are [hurt/ starving/ unemployed/ homeless/ etc.]?”

The first response is: Compassion is a muscle. It needs to be exercised.

The second is: Where there is animal neglect, there is child neglect. Where there is animal abuse, there is domestic violence. When we help the lives of non-human animals, we help the lives of the humans around them.

People have asked me the “Why animals?” question less and less over the years–perhaps because they realized after 4.5 years that I’ve cast my lot with the elephants–but it really helped to hear the Humane Society and its awardees make the connections, and it gave me hope that we can make significant gains to protect animals and end cruelty, just in time to attend the Elephant Summit.

The 2012 Summit for Elephants took a two-year break, so it was great to reconnect with all our “Ele-Friends” from 2010 and see what they’ve been up to. Here are some highlights:

  1. Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips from Animal Defenders International (ADI) discussed how Bolivia, Bosnia and now Greece were able to ban all animals in circuses and “entertainment”, in hopes that other countries, including the US, will also join the ban (See more at Break the Chain below).
  2. Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani of Wildlife SOS India gave everyone a quick overview of the issues facing Asian Elephants, particularly once they are considered “captive” by their respective governments, and how they are working within India’s systems to phase out all elephants in captivity and establish “Elephant Haven” as a model self-sustaining elephant sanctuary.
  3. Catherine Doyle of In Defense of Animals (IDA) talked about the importance of re-examining our relationships with non-human animals and using that as a springboard to discuss how animal abuse in circuses goes against our “community values”.
  4. Delicianna Winders of PETA discussed how we can legally go after circuses and reminded us that “the only humane circus is a circus without animals”.
  5. Matt Rossell of ADI announced recent successes of the “Break the Chain” campaign to support TEAPA, the Traveling Exotic Animals Protection Act (H.R. 3359)–which I encourage every “Ele-Friend” to check out.
  6. Katie Maneeley of Animal Agency discussed the importance of creating a collective effort between disparate groups and using the media to combat the big money behind circuses.

I was also pleased to hear Maneeley make the connections between animal abuse and child abuse, particularly when Ringling Bros. gave free circus tickets to a shelter for women and children survivors of domestic violence. She offered the shelter director an alternative, saying that since the women and children in their facility were survivors of violence, they probably knew how hard it is to see another being abused and coerced. The shelter agreed and they went to the movies, instead, thanks to free ticket vouchers from PETA.

Motivation for keeping up the fight. Even in a room full of 100s, even 1,000s, of animal welfare supporters, it’s hard not to get discouraged about all the work before us. However, I believe Catherine Doyle said it best at the Elephant Summit:

“Saving one elephant may not change the world, but you change the world for that elephant.”

By supporting, “The Eyes of Thailand” documentary, you aren’t just supporting Motala and Mosha, the two elephants featured in the film; you are also supporting FAE’s Elephant Hospital, to ensure that it can continue to treat elephants at no charge to the elephant owners for years to come.

However, you are also doing more than that. By sharing our Facebook posts, Tweets, newsletters and the link to our website, you are also helping us start a global conversation about how we can protect Asian and African Elephants in their natural habitats, as well as their captive environments.

Thank you for joining us and we look forward to sharing some BIG film announcements very soon.


Windy Borman, Director/Producer, “The Eyes of Thailand”

Notes from PAWS Elephant Summit

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

On March 27, 2010, I attended the Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) Summit for Elephants. It was wonderful to be in a room full of elephant advocates and brainstorm about how to protect Asian and African elephants in captivity and the wild.  Those in attendance included:

I drove from San Francisco to PAWS in San Andreas particularly to hear Don Tayloe speak about Thai Elephants, the subject of The Eyes of Thailand documentary.  Mr. Tayloe attempted to summarize the problems facing Thailand’s Elephants–a huge, complex issue–in an hour-long presentation and he managed to cover a lot of ground.  First, he spoke out against “elephant painting“, which caused a bit of a ruckus among some zoo representatives who allow their elephants to paint abstractly but claim they have not taught or trained them to create the paintings made popular by the internet. Next, he explained the loophole in Thailand’s Draft Animal Act of 1939 that classifies domesticated/captive Asian Elephants as “livestock” not “endangered species”, even if they were captured from the wild, so international rulings by CITES, et al do not apply to Thailand’s captive elephants.  Finally, he discussed the exportation of Thai elephants to zoos or other captive environments in China, Japan and Australia, which Soraida Salwala, founder of the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital and featured in The Eyes of Thailand, protests.  While there is no proof that the U.S. has not imported any elephants from Thailand, Tayloe quoted a well-known belief among zoo directors that “If you want to increase your zoo attendance, get yourself a baby elephant”, a sad, but true fact for everyone at the Elephant Summit.

Don Tayloe with Motala (before she received her prosthesis) at FAE's Elephant Hospital

The afternoon wrapped with an open forum about how to move forward led by Patricia McEachern, Ph.D., Director of Drury University Forum on Animal Rights. This conversation was very exciting not only because Dr. McEachern is creating the country’s first Animal Rights minor at a U.S. University, but also because of her vision for redefining the language we use to discuss animals by incorporating experts in philosophy, criminology, psychology, biology, religion and literature in the first Animal Ethics class. What excited me the most about what Dr. McEachern is doing is that she’s educating the next generation of global citizens about issues that will only become more important as conflict for resources grows.  I also think video and social media need to be added to the mix, so I spoke with her after and suggested she add a survey of animals in film and/or an advocacy filmmaking class to her curriculum, so we’ll see what happens there…

My biggest take-away from the summit is that only by finding common ground and a common message will we as elephant advocates be able to make any headway.  If we continue the in-fighting about “good zoo” vs. “bad zoo”,  “conservation” vs. “captivity”, elephants in the U.S. vs. Africa vs. Asian, we’ll continue to be written off as “crazy animal rights people”.  Instead, if the message is “We all love elephants, but what is it that we think is important for their well being?” then we have a starting point for a conversation with people on the other side.

For more information about The Eyes of Thailand, please visit our web site and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to The Eyes of Thailand to help us edit and distribute the film by clicking “Donate Now” on our web site.  It will take you to the secure online donation page for our fiscal sponsor, the San Francisco Film Society. Thank you for your support!


Windy Borman

Director & Producer, The Eyes of Thailand