The Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus was in Atlanta this past February, just like it has been every February since we can remember. And just like anyone who’s been to the circus knows, PETA was there too, set up outside the Phillips Arena with bullhorns and posters of abused animals – mainly Asian elephants.
In what People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other animal rights activists are calling a massive victory, Feld Entertainment (parent company of Ringling) has announced it will completely phase out elephants from its three touring shows by 2018. The 13 elephants currently performing will be sent to the circuses’ Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida to join 40 other elephants already living there.
Feld Entertainment President Kenneth Feld cited legislation in some states that regulates the treatment of animals (i.e. the use of bull hooks - long, hooked poles), which has made touring logistics difficult.
Feld Entertainment Executive Vice President Alana Feld also pointed to a sea of change among circus-goers.
“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” Feld said. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
In public statements from PETA, president Ingrid Newkirk rightly calls Ringling’s move “purely a business decision,” and PETA goes on to slam Ringling for a health threat the organization has dubbed the “smoking gun.”
According to articles on their website, PETA claims that beyond dollars and sense part of the reason Ringling is phasing out elephants is because, “at least since 2010” some tested positive for the human strain of tuberculosis, which is highly communicable to humans. PETA says they have obtained documentation from Ringling and the Department of Agriculture that proves their claims.
“Ringling’s announcement seems to have been a preemptive move to keep the public in the dark about the extent of the health risk posed by moving sick elephants to cities throughout the country,” the article states.
Our stance on animals is what we’d call moderate. Animal cruelty and neglect is always wrong, but we eat meat and wear leather. Unlike our human family, if our pets get sick there’s a limit on what we’re going to spend at the vet to make them better.
That being said, we feel really, really bad when we walk past those protesters at the circus, and once inside our adult selves can clearly see that the elephants look tired and sad. Their heads hang low. They seem lethargic. But it’s no wonder since they spend their lives in boxcars or cages and are always on the road. We’re reminded of Dumbo’s mom, who was jailed as the “Mad Elephant” in the Disney classic. They’re prodded by bull hooks and wear shackles. The life of a circus elephant is, we’re sure, a terrible one - one we image could lead to illness, just like PETA claims.
When we were kids we didn’t notice the elephants’ misery. We were dazzled by the giant creatures’ ability to stand on one leg, spin around, then walk in a straight line while grasping the tail of the pachyderm in front of them with their trunk. For over 100 years Ringling has used the majesty of the elephant - which scientists have described as highly intelligent and sensitive animals - as their central marketing tool, and this centrality is why their departure from the Big Top is bittersweet for us. Just as Ringling has argued in the past, it is hard to imagine the circus without elephants, but that difficulty is trumped by compassion and humaneness.
For us there’s no question these stunning animals deserve a better, more dignified life. Feld Entertainment says it’s “impractical” to relocate their elephants to the Florida conservation before 2018, but for us three years just isn’t soon enough.
The recent sentencing of Ryan Quinton, who pled guilty last week to Vehicular Homicide after the tragic death of his wife Kali on their wedding day, is a stark reminder that drinking and driving is never a good idea. While Quinton pled guilty to just the vehicular homicide for reckless driving charge for the December 2013 accident, he had been charged for a DUI that night, too.
By Dan Pool
On February 17th, I spied a mother and daughter I know (who shall remain nameless to prevent embarrassment) hanging around one morning during school hours.
I inquired about the student taking a day off and the mother told me there was no school in Pickens that day.
I told her I was pretty sure there was as the middle school and high school my kids attend had seemed pretty busy.
Another person chimed in that they had definitely seen school buses making their rounds.
But the mother was sure there was no school as she had read it on Facebook the night before.
Uh-oh, we have a problem. A quick check revealed that she had in fact seen where schools were cancelled in Pickens County – Pickens, South Carolina. The cancellation announced by a Pickens news source in the Palmetto state had been spread around by several members of this community. The mother later told me she knew at least one other parent who gave their kids a snow day courtesy of the South Carolina report sneaking in to Peach state social media circles.
Not many people bother to include the state when they post news figuring that you are reaching mainly people nearby.
The problem online and especially for social media is what you see quickly becomes divorced from context. When items are shared, particularly when readers are scanning their feed on phones, they see only a few lines of text and a photo.
As the lesson here shows, it pays to trace back links and check the whole story.
Southern winters -- not much snow but a lot of ice
With winter weather in Pickens County and north Georgia we rarely get snow and never those hills like Frosty slides down. Here it’s mostly a nasty mush that turns to solid sheets of ice when the temperature drops at night.
As we quoted a weather professional saying last week, the temperature had hovered right around freezing so that a degree or two flicker made all the difference in whose trees became icicles and whose only got wet.
That ice storm was pretty typical for north Georgia – slick roads, poor sledding and power outages. The character of southern Appalachian winter shows why we have a lot of wrecks and no skiing – we get ice, not snow on most occasions.
One thing peculiar this year is how the state agencies are scrambling to hold briefings and issue alerts every 15 minutes. Some are needed, but we are clearly entering the territory of overreaction -- likely a result of last year’s infamously casual state approach to Atlanta’s Ice Jam.
The endless repetition of winter storm warnings/advisory/cautions/panics tends to make you disregard them – unless your milk and bread supplies are judged too paltry for a protracted siege.
In the face of newscasts that have “severe storm” reports on sunny days, you may be tempted to risk the roads and ignore the umpteenth winter storm advisory on your phone.
But, we’d urge caution. Keep in mind while most of us breezed through last week’s winter weather, folks nearer the Pickens/Dawson line spent several days without power.
And on Friday night, as soon as conditions hit the required precipitation and cold point, wreck calls started filling scanners. It wasn’t another snowjam, but if you were sitting on 5 percent propane or lacking a secondary heat source or were one of those drivers in a ditch, then it was a personal severe weather event.
There are infinite numbers of online resources for preparing for winter storms, www.ready.ga.gov being a good one.
But even in this world of Weatherbug and Dark Sky weather apps, common sense is still a key – don’t drive when your driveway is covered with snow/ice; have some extra food on hand and figure out a backup heat source ahead of time.
And for this winter, let’s hope this paper is the last to feature snow photos in Pickens County -- Georgia.
Killing her is wrong
Georgia is set to execute a woman. Kelly Gissendaner is the only woman on death row in Georgia and will be the first woman executed here in 70 years. She would have faced lethal injection Monday, but the state got squeamish about the drugs they had lined up because they looked cloudy.
By Angela Reinhardt
I’m tired. I’m really, really tired.
But as much as I dread dragging through the rest of the day with glassy, burning eyes, staring into space like a porcelain doll, last night was worth it.
Some friends and I bit the bullet and bought tickets for the Wednesday evening production of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre at the Fox (the one on Peachtree in Atlanta). We’d hit a restaurant on Marietta Square