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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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”