Wednesday, December 30, 2009 

Excellent news for Feld Entertainment. In a long awaited decision, the Federal Court today ruled in favor of Feld Entertainment and Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey in response to a law suit brought by animal liberation activists and the Animal Protection Institute, a suit endorsed by PETA, HSUS and other animal liberation advocates.

According to the Washington Post regarding today's ruling...

"In a 57-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said a former Ringling employee, Tom Rider, and the Animal Protection Institute did not have legal standing to sue the circus under the Endangered Species Act.

Rider and the institute argued during a lengthy bench trial and in court papers that Ringling Brothers had violated the Endangered Species Act because handlers used bull hooks on elephants and chained them for long periods. They contended that the hooks and chaining harmed the elephants."

Feld attorney's contended successfully that RBBB elephants are well cared for and are not abused.

Sunday, December 27, 2009 

Wait…wait, “You can’t say something BAD about saving rainforests,” I have been told. “You want to save the rainforests too.” All right, I want to save the rainforests. My point was, or should have been that movies are a bit simplistic when it comes to such issues. At the risk of sounding political, something I like to avoid since my Libertarian instincts annoy friends both on the left and right, “Just Say No,” didn’t work for illicit drugs or teen sex, and it doesn’t work for species survival or for carbon emissions either. There’s an economic reality to conservation and environmental issues. Way back in the early 1980’s in Africa several countries discovered that the best way to pay for Game Parks was to sell a hunting license to rich foreigners for large sums of money. The hunters killed a few trophy animals, and fees paid for a lot of rangers to curtail poaching. It was species survival that paid for itself, and thus worked and didn’t require aid from outside the region. Eco-tourism is another facet of the same concept. Telling peoples that slash/burn agriculture, or cutting tropical hardwoods are destroying forests and should be outlawed sounds good but accomplishes nothing. If you can’t replace slash/burn with a better system… if you can’t provide timber interests and mills with alternatives, and workers with jobs… you’re right back to Just Say No. It’s a reality that we have to consider whether we’re discussing fossil fuels or the importation of elephants to zoos and circus. Yes, it would be nice if most elephants could live in the wild. But the wild is almost gone and somebody has to protect genetic diversity. If we need to improve management and training in domesticity, we need to improve it – but ending captive conservation is a suicidal solution to past mistakes we may have made. We’d all like to see an end to the captor/hostage relationship between oil producing countries and large-scale oil users like the US. We can throw hundreds of billions of dollars at alternative energy but there’s no solid assurance that ten years from now we’ll have a wind network, or safe nuclear plants, or working hydrogen fuel cells. On the other hand we can compromise and drill like mad for natural gas. There are some environmental risks to ground water, but it buys us forty years of freedom during which time we can get alternatives to really work for us. And we don’t have to drill for oil in Alaska wildness or off the California coast, or tailor our foreign policy to the wants of the Middle East. So it isn’t that I’m against saving the rainforest, or breathing clean air, or keeping greenhouse emissions within agreed upon “norms.” But Just Say No doesn’t get us there. Never really did.

All of which brings me to the real topic of this post. Animal Liberation has targeted circuses and zoos for years now in the guise of “Animal Rights.” Most of us believe in strong animal welfare protections, but even the American Veterinary Association decries the notion of “animal rights.” In the captive animal world we’re all familiar with PETA, or PAWS, or HSUS, or IDA. But many of us may be unaware of the growing strength of anti-farm groups like FARM SANCTUARY. PETA preaches the gospel of vegan lifestyle but compromises now and then and cuts deals with food chains settling for strict animal welfare reforms. (Not that they aren’t gunning for more draconian outcomes.) Farm Sanctuary is rather more fervent on the topic of what we eat. No compromises. All or nothing. As such they’ve engineered outright bans on certain foods, or production of those foods in certain places. Goose liver pate, for example. Personally I’m not a fan of factory farms with thousands of dairy cows, or pigs, or chickens. They’re a bit too toxic in waste management. But for centuries we managed to raise cows and pigs and chickens without those factory farms, so the basic idea of husbandry whether in the production of milk, or eggs, or chickens, or pork, or beef is pretty sound. Farmers, particularly family farmers aren’t the bad guys and animal agriculture is not by definition cruel. You wouldn’t know that reading Farm Sanctuary literature. where even your back-to-the-land neighbors producing organic yogurt from goat’s milk and protesting against fur are enemies of the perfect vegan world. If you want to be a vegan, that’s all well and good. But we aren’t vegans by nature – neither are chimps for that matter – and the notion that an ideological philosophy trumps basic biology is a stretch. Be aware.


Joe Scarborough the former Florida Congressman turned conservative/libertarian television host asks, or used to ask at the end of his morning show… What, if anything, did we learn today? That’s always a pretty good question. And I found myself thinking about that question on Christmas Day when we made a family trek to a Cineplex to see the new 3D film AVATAR. Avatar, it should be noted to triumph of computer generated images and animation. Every few years a new film raises the FX bar, and this is one one them. It’s a technological success even if it’s rather lame storytelling with a preachy message borrowed from a Captain Planet cartoon. But what impressed me about AVATAR was the ticket price. $13.50 to see a movie. And of course $6 for a bucket of corn. We really have reached that point where it’s sometimes less expensive to see live performers in a circus, professionals, some taking genuine risks…than it is to see a Hollywood blockbuster. And that could be a selling point, particularly for a small show. Family Fun For Less Than The Price Of A Movie looks pretty good on a ticket or poster. And it should, circus is a better value, and something to remember long after the simple storyline of Avatar. Boy meets native girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy defeats Marines and mining company to save the rainforests…

Saturday, December 26, 2009 

Now there's a mud show.

Happy Holiday season to all and a marvelous 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 

Tompkins County Library system, in their wisdom seems to block FACEBOOK. Denied the single biggest time-waster of this winter season, I reckon I ought to blog. (It's that or watch circus videos...I believe the kid's section of the library might have Toby Tyler... if it isn't politically incorrect.) I've babbled a bit about newspapers lately, and my general feeling that print media has become a deep hole in which advertising money is wasted, except in select markets. Certainly that raises the legtimate question -- what does work? For small shows television buys are almost out of the question, and even if some cable systems sell reasonable packages, does it do a lot of good to advertise a circus at 2AM on the Golf Channel? Television works best in major markets for shows with deep pockets, or when it's aimed strictly at a Hispanic audience. Radio is rather more forgiving on the budget, particularly for small shows playing rural areas, or again shows narrow-casting to a particular ethnic audience. Where radio is wasted may be English language pitches in the mid-sized to large markets. Stations with significant audience share aren't cheap in those markets, and lesser stations can drive box office. You got to love the smaller communities in the west and southwest where a hundred spots can be bought for a fraction of what air time can cost in a large market.

Time to look for Toby Tyler

Monday, December 07, 2009 

Excuses, excuses.  Mine is mostly about fighting "the teen" for access to our our really, really slow internet.  Weather turned winter-like in upstate New York.  Snow on the ground.  This morning temps blow twenty. Finally got around to rotating tires on the car today, because it's so much more fun to wait until there's ice on the roads and the yard is frozen rather than doing the job say a week ago when we still had days in the 40's and 50's.  Still no winter employment.  I guess there's a recession on.  Troubling, vexing.  Is anybody really over qualified to work at a mini-mart?  You apply for a mini-mart job (or at least I do) because I want the check, and I'd rather take a job taht I won't feel too bad about leaving when I can go back to circus.  I am not overqualified for that.

Intended to write a bit more about media and its role in circus marketing.  Bleak though the picture may be for many daily papers in local markets, or a national publication like US Today with it's plummeting readership, not all print media has gone the way of the dinosaurs.  Weekly papers are still strong in many communities.  In very small towns everybody reads the weekly because its the only real source for local news.  In mid-sized and larger communities tabloid weeklies pride themselves on real journalism.  In many places bigger weeklies seem to have a bit of a liberal bias, but that doesn't diminish their value for paid adverts, and getting past any bias and getting a real story into such papers (before the show actually comes to town) isn't impossible so long as the paper has the lead time, and a route allows a writer to visit the lot several weeks in advance.  That's within the realm of possibility when a show concentrates on a particular geographical area, or spends a considerable amount of time in one area.    

Hold that thought.  There;s a Saint Bernard in my yard and maybe he's carrying a brandy flash attached to his collar.  My dogs say, "check it out."