Animals in Entertainment: Your Actions Protect their Rights

Written by Becky Villaneda

Growing up I did go to the zoo and circus, one time for each from what I can remember. But as I got older and began educating myself on what really happens to these captive animals, it depressed me and I haven’t returned to a zoo or circus since.

I remember an argument I had with a friend about zoos because he said they were educational, served as research for animals’ survival and that children should be able to have this type of exposure. I understood his points and can mildly agree, because zoos have helped the population of some endangered animals, such as the panda bear. But I still, personally, can’t stomach seeing them in unnatural environments—caged and in makeshift habitats. The animals in captivity that really make me upset are those featured in a circus and as “Hollywood actors.”

In July 2010, I attended a Ringling Brothers circus protest at the Staples Center in Los Angeles hosted by multiple animal rights organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). It was reportedly one of the largest turnouts for a circus protest with about 300 people showing up to hold signs, hand out stickers and leaflets and approach attendees to tell them what animals such as elephants, monkeys and bears endure in order to do tricks on command.

Aside from the incessant prodding and poking, they have to travel city to city in confined spaces instead of roaming freely in their natural habitats. They also are confined in small cages in backlots waiting to “perform.” Animals can be seen pacing in frustration and boredom while in cages—this includes zoo enclosures as well.

Circus trainers often use force and intimidation to make an animal comply. Search and find tons of undercover footage of elephants being struck by bull hooks and electric rods until they complete any given trick. And it isn’t just adult elephants, baby elephants are also subject to this abuse.

During the protest, we got excited when some people changed their minds. But of course there were those who yelled at us and asked us why we didn’t have better things to do. My only answer was that I chose to speak up for the voiceless .

Accounts of the mistreatment of Hollywood animals are also coming to light. Reports of a giraffe named Tweet dying in 2009 during the filming of the movie “Zookeeper” has prompted a protest at its premiere on Wednesday, July 6 at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles.

Another reason PETA is asking animal rights activists to protest the film is because an elephant was used in the movie who was provided by the company Have Trunk Will Travel. (HTWT), according to Animal Defenders International, is notorious for abusing its animal actors and there is video to prove this.

Southwest Riverside News Network spoke to Animal Legal Defense Fund representative Lisa Franzetta, who said they have not received any viable eyewitness tips regarding elephant abuse on Hollywood television or movie productions, but are offering a $10,000 reward for the first eyewitness to come forward with information regarding animal abuse and mistreatment. The organization announced their campaign to expose animal abuse on June 23.

But back to Tweet, who also appeared in “Ace Ventura” and multiple Toys “R” Us commercials, reportedly collapsed in his pen while being fed, according to The cause of death has yet to be determined, he was 18 years old. Animal rights activists are being asked to join in the protest in L.A., or to simply not watch the film “Zookeeper,” to make a statement to movie producers, Hollywood executives, and actors, to not use animals in movies. The film stars Kevin James and Rosario Dawson.

Animals are not props and should not be used for our entertainment. And, as the Humane Society of the United States reminds: once these animals become too dangerous or old to perform, there may be no safe refuge for them.


“Giraffe On “The Zookeeper” Set Dies; Whistleblower Alleges Neglect Read More: Http:// Sept. 2009. Web. 5 July 2011.

Recker, Rachael. “$10K Reward Still Offered for Info in Hollywood Elephant Abusers.” Southwest Riverside County News | Riverside, CA Local News Online. Southwest Riverside News Network, 3 July 2011. Web. 06 July 2011. .

“Circuses, Animals in Entertainment : The Humane Society of the United States.” The Humane Society of the United States : The Humane Society of the United States. Web. 06 July 2011. .

About the author

Becky Villaneda

Becky is a Los Angeles-born writer educated in southern and northern California. She became a writer to raise awareness of social and environmental issues and because her mother’s passion for the written word was contagious. In early 2011, Becky and three other journalists teamed to write their first book “Stories4Women,” which is a collection of true short stories. This project has given her the courage to explore other book ideas … stay tuned. She recently moved to Santa Barbara and works at Hispanic Business Magazine and is happily exploring the city’s sights and sounds.