|Report on Commerford Zoo Protest-Take Action!|
In our last update about the Commerford & Sons Traveling Zoo, which appeared at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center last weekend, we reported that we had been working all through the week prior to its appearance to get the event canceled. The only response we received to our letters concerning this event was a letter from the General Manager of the David Lawrence Convention Center, Mark J. Leahy, sent to us by email the day before the event was scheduled.
You can read his response letter at this link. As you will see, Mr. Leahy is only concerned with the legality of the event, rather than its abhorrent and unethical nature, and as we later discovered, even the legality of what occurred is extremely questionable (read on!).
Unfortunately this abhorrent traveling zoo arrived in Pittsburgh on November 21st and 22nd, during which VFA volunteers were present on both days from 1-5 PM to protest the most atrocious captive animal event we've ever seen enter the city. Because of several noteworthy discoveries uncovered during Commerford's despicable presence, we are taking some time to update you on how we can continue to take action that, with your active participation, will result in banning future animal acts at David L. Lawrence Convention Center entirely.
For starters, as VFA volunteers "came across" more and more free children’s tickets throughout the city, it became obvious that Commerford preys upon families with lower incomes. Many families attending Commerford last weekend were under the impression that the event was free, however once inside were charged for all food, rides, and games as well as $13 for any adults supervising children (a good idea since Commerford doesn't, which we'll get to later!). Commerford was taking advantage of people who thought they found a free or low-cost event to attend and spend time at with their families. Once we told people about to enter the Convention Center the true cost of the event, several of them turned around and left, seeing it for the scam it is. Even better, we are proud to announce that over ten families turned around simply after receiving our literature and hearing about Commerford's historically abusive record toward animals as well as the safety hazard the event posed to the public. Alerting passersby of the atrocities inside DLCC that day was made even easier with the donation of a megaphone for the day - (thanks Tara!). Our message was heard throughout downtown!
Yet the most striking thing we witnessed while protesting the event were the hundreds of epiphanies from those exiting the Convention Center. VFA has been protesting the use of animals in entertainment for many years, but never have we seen such a drastic turnaround in the public’s minds as we did when people dispersed from the DLCC. The three rings, loud music, and faster-paced acts of Ringling Bros. Circus, for example, often aid in the concealment of animal abuse to the public to the point that they may not see or recognize it; however, this was not the case with Commerford Zoo. While smiles and excited children may have entered the event, shaking heads, dropped jaws, and teary eyes frequently rushed to us upon exit to depict the details of their experiences inside and request information on who to contact to complain about the atrocities they had just witnessed. Many families left the event much earlier than they had planned, and came to us with descriptions of the animals imprisoned by Commerford, citing they appeared "sick," "unhealthy," "lethargic," "were not moving/looked tired and laid there," "kept moving back and forth," (a common display of animals used in entertainment who are so stressed they have gone neurotic from captivity, abuse, and boredom), as well as some more telling reports...
· First of all, numerous attendees told us that the petting areas were not being monitored by Commerford employees. This is illegal and Commerford and the DLCC placed families and small children at risk around unfamiliar animals, some with a documented history of rampage. At best, the legality of this event was extremely questionable. Furthermore, Commerford falsely advertised a “monkey farm” on their tickets. While Commerford does indeed imprison monkeys, lucky for them they were not legally able to appear inside the Convention Center that day under PA law regarding the display of primates.
· A family told us they were outraged to have spent money to attend this event. The father was bitten by a donkey at a petting area unsupervised by Commerford staff. When a member of staff was located to report the bite to, the family stated they were advised to, "Just go wash it with some antiseptic, I don't know what else to tell you," after questioned if skin was broken during the bite. They also stated the animal abuse was so apparent that even their three-year-old child said he wanted to leave because, "the animals look sad." We provided this family with a leaflet and strongly advised they report this injury to the Convention Center.
· Yet another family stopped to read our literature only to return and request more information, stating they saw sick animals and that they were “big animal people” and they were very upset that they were unaware of the abuse involved with the event: “It was more depressing and sad than entertaining.”
· A woman reported there was a huge line stretching all the way out the door to ride the elephant, that the elephant was being overworked and looked exhausted, and that she witnessed the elephant being beaten with a bullhook to continue providing rides to children. (While we are unaware of the exact number of elephants Commerford imprisons, it is probable that the same elephant worked from 10 am until 7 pm in the evening on Saturday, and from 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday.)
· Confirming our worst fears, picture and video footage from inside the event was obtained - the pictures depicted lethargic animals, some seemingly too overworked or ill to even lift their heads, even amidst the loud noises of Commerford’s carnival rides and hundreds of children lining up to pet and feed them. Furthermore, video footage of a camel imprisoned under Commerford shows the camel continuously neurologically pacing back and forth in their pen. The video of this camel can be seen here at our YouTube site. You can view the pictures of the animals at our Picasa Album at this link.
Nearly all who approached us reported seeing sick, abused, and lethargic animals, and were enthusiastic we were present and providing information on who to contact to complain to and put a stop to the abuse witnessed.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!