Basic Problem:

“Animal rights” activists (most are probably well-intentioned) have been successful in raising a war chest in the millions.  These funds are used not for the care and well-being of animals, but for propaganda and lobbying.  While there are some problem areas, most of the charges of animal “abuse” are totally unfounded or grossly exaggerated.  Right or wrong, these people are well organized!

Harmful Results:

Because these activists are organized and richly funded, and because politicians are susceptible to such efforts, there have been frequent legislative attempts to abolish what we know to be appropriate, non-abusive procedures that are essential to the proper care of animals.  Legislation, such as the recent bill (AB 1000 – Horcher) considered by the California Assembly, could greatly restrict or totally eliminate restraints that are vital to elephant training and care.

Potential Ramifications:

One target here, another there and eventually, as the pendulum swings farther and farther their way, these activists will succeed in eliminating all animal display, performances and exhibitions, which is the avowed aim of many of their leaders.

“Our” Problem:

In contrast with the animal rights activists, those of us in the various fields of animal care, training and performance are totally unorganized.  At times, disorganized.  We bridge many different areas of activities, and it’s not easy to clearly identify ourselves.  We present no common front, no unified effort.  More and more, we are being portrayed as “greedy, abusive, uncaring.”  Yet we have much to show and tell about ourselves that is interesting and positive; a compelling story, largely untold.

Reactive Stance:

Clearly, we are in a reactive mode.  With a great struggle, when attacked, we muster a force to testify at a hearing.  But we are much like family and friends who never get together except for funerals.  For the most part, we have been a zoo on the defensive; an elephant compound on the defensive; a circus seeking to offset negative shots; a fair overcoming letter-writers and pickets.

We Must Become Proactive:

We cannot sit back and be merely ineffective volunteer fire fighters.  We must become organized and united.  We must go on the offense.  We must become proactive.  We need to launch an ongoing campaign to build public confidence in what we do; earn public respect and support that we’ll need when we go to battle.  We have a very positive story; let’s tell it.  And tell it.  And tell it.

We Need an Umbrella:

In trying to crystallize all of this, it becomes clear that we are so fragmented that it’s difficult to identify the “we.”  Animal activists, by contrast, are clearly identified.  They’ve become like mom’s apple pie.  They stand for “right and good.”  So do we!

The Colyer Institute:

A non-profit organization, called The Colyer Institute, was created by a respected zoological veterinarian and a dentist who has dedicated his 25-year career to the care and treatment of dental problems in exotic animals.  Their aim is education of both the public and those who are charged with animal care.  Theirs is a realistic and intelligent approach to the problem.  The Colyer Institute, with no “negative baggage,” provides a tax-deductible umbrella under which we can unite.

Yes, It Takes Money:

Let’s face it, we are combating heavily-armed camps of well-meaning “animal activists,” many of whom know only their own catch-phrases and are not aware of the time, money and care we devote to the health and well-being of the animals we are responsible for.  The “other side” has lots of money.  If we are to make inroads, we must invest in our positive story.  Many of you are doing some of this now, on your own: lobbyists, promotional pieces and similar efforts.  We applaud your work, and do not suggest this as a replacement.  Keep up your own programs.  But join in this new, proactive, umbrella effort that can, for the first time, provide us with a united front.  It can take us from a negative, defensive posture, to an actively positive position.  Actually, to launch a modest but on-going program will not take the huge amounts accumulated by our detractors.  We believe we can get this program launched for a first-year expenditure of about $25,000.  A small amount considering the number of us who should be involved.  Please join us; let’s see what we can accomplish in a year.  Then, together, evaluate what we have achieved, and decide where we go from that point on.