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On Two Recent Direct Actions

Two things happened last week that made me think about how effective direct action can be. They both involved phone calls, e-mails and other forms of pressure to not hold an event.

1.          The Cole Bros. Circus, which is not known for its humane treatment of animals (here‘s a factsheet of their many instances of failure to meet even minimal federal standards for the care of animals), was going to visit the town I live in, and set up shop at the baseball stadium that’s within 1.5 miles from my house. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida sent out an alert with the contact information for the mayor, the town council, and the owner of the stadium.

I sent a note to everyone listed, of course mentioning that at least five elephants in the "care" of Cole Bros. have died in the past 10 years and that Cole Bros. uses bullhooks to control the elephants (there was hideous undercover footage of the abuse of the animals made to perform in the Cole Bros. Circus). I mentioned that the arrival of the circus would be "an enormous embarrassment and public relations nightmare, as most people who care about animals have heard about how abysmal Cole Bros. is when it comes to the treatment of animals." I ended my letter with "Please don’t allow Cole Bros. to come to our town and pollute our atmosphere with its brutality. It’s bad enough they exist. I don’t want them in my backyard."

I worded my letters that way because, as much as the animals have done nothing to warrant their abuse and we have no right to hold them captive, what’s equally true, and perhaps more important for the stadium owner and the local politicians, is that some the people they serve would be angry enough to make things difficult or inconvenient for them. They’d lose business. They’d lose popularity.

They wrote back within 48 hours to say Cole Bros. wouldn’t be coming to our town and they’re aware that such a visit would be "problematic."

Now, this isn’t putting Cole Bros. out of business. Yet. But it’s
inconvenient, and they’re getting the message that they’re not welcome
in South Florida (this has happened to them before). The effective part
of this particular action is that a decision to not allow the circus
was made immediately, and as a result of pressure. However, unless
every town acts similarly, Cole Bros. will simply change their schedule
to reflect only animal-abuse friendly towns (/towns where people simply
aren’t thinking about whether animals should live in captivity and
"perform" for humans).

2.          The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
had spent months planning a fundraiser, to be held at O’Flaherty’s Ale
House in Manhattan on October 14. However, when word got out,
O’Flaherty’s manager received "intimidating and threatening telephone
calls from representatives of the carriage trade telling him that he
better not host [the] fundraiser" (according to a 9/17/08 e-mail from the Coalition). They threatened to "riot" at his
restaurant unless he canceled, which he did.

Please circulate . . .

9.18.08      Press Advisory

WHAT:  Council Member Tony Avella will hold a
press conference with the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages to
denounce threats made against O’Flaherty’s Ale House for allowing a
fund-raising event for the coalition on October 14th.  Unfortunately,
the threats prompted the restaurant to pull out of catering the event
for fear of employees’ safety.  Needless to say, the coalition is now
faced with the daunting task of trying to find another location to host
the event in such short notice.

WHEN:           Friday, September 19th, 2008 at 12:00 PM

WHERE:         In front of O’Flaherty’s Ale House located at 334 W. 46th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenues, in Manhattan.                                                                                                   

WHO:              Council Member Tony Avella

                          Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

Press, Radio, TV & Photo Coverage Requested

For more information please contact: Tony Avella at 718-747-2137 or 917-723-3289

Clearly, it works both ways (although I didn’t threaten with a riot): people succumb to pressure, particularly when their self-interest, reputation or profit is at stake. If you or anyone you know is in a position to help the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, please step up. We’re closer than ever to banning the carriages from the streets of Manhattan.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bea Elliott #

    A few weeks ago I received an activists alert to encourage schools here in Florida to end ticket sales and promotions of Ringling. I called and emailed different county school boards of my concern and was pleased that most said they are disassociated themselves from this fund raising event. I'm glad so many were aware and on board.

    It's awful about the horse-drawn carraiges. How could such a "sophisticated" city like N.Y. be so stuck in barbarism? With thugs threatening citizens to boot? My brother-in-law is a producer at a NY news station… For what it's worth, I'll mention the story to my sister.

    September 19, 2008
  2. abigail #

    I have the emails and statement from the manager that says deifferently. Im sure you wont post this, but the TRUTH is that I emailed the manager about our disappointment. No threats, no intimidation. It was his call to cancel the event. Anything else said is a lie. You can contact me and I will provide the email correspondence. This is the truth. Too bad cm avella had to lie in order to gain more publicity.

    September 19, 2008
  3. See abigail's strikingly similar comment here:

    The industry is obviously terrified, but there's still much work to be done.

    Edita from Friends of Animals wrote to me yesterday about a press conference being held next week at City Hall in which she, along with Council Member Tony Avella, and Elizabeth Forel from the Coalition will be speaking to address the subversion of animal legislation by the Speaker of the City Council-Christine Quinn.
    Our focus will be on demanding a hearing for Avella’s pending bill to ban the industry, but our larger point will also be that all animal legislation is being ignored by the speaker, and we are demanding accountability.
    Many thanks,
    Edita Birnkrant
    NYC Campaign Coordinator-Friends of Animals

    Where are NYC’s Animal Protection Bills? New Yorkers Demand a Public Hearing!

    Please join Friends of Animals, Council Member Tony Avella, and The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in a joint City Hall press conference addressing animal-protection bills currently pending in the City Council, including Council Member Avella’s proposed ban (Intro 658) on horse-drawn carriages.

    Speaker Christine Quinn has refused to hold a hearing on Tony Avella’s bill or any other animal-related bills.

    We want a public hearing for the horse-drawn carriage bill.

    The recent wedding-day crash of a horse-drawn carriage in Brooklyn’s Borough Park highlights the need to take horses off our city streets immediately and into appropriate sanctuaries, and the necessity of a public hearing for the bill.

    Where: Steps of City Hall (between Broadway & Park Place – South of Chamber St.)
    When: Wednesday, September 24th
    Time: 1:00 PM
    Why: To press Speaker Quinn and the City Council to get public hearings underway now on vital and animal-related legislation pending in the Council.

    All those who want fairness for animals can show your support to the media with your presence. Signs and posters will be provided. For further information or questions, contact Edita Birnkrant at or at 212.247.8120.

    September 20, 2008
  4. "people succumb to pressure"

    I get so frustrated with the anti-direct action folks who claim that certain forms of activism aren't effective and we ought to just be super nice all the time. I wish they'd just get honest and say, "Well, yeah, it's effective. But we oppose it because __." I'd accept the ethical argument. The end doesn't always justify the means. I can see how we might be shooting ourselves in the foot, etc. But don't say it's ineffective. Direct action works.

    September 21, 2008
  5. Abigail #

    From the Irish Voice:

    Upon discovering that the event was in fact to raise funds for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Healy said he cancelled the fundraiser.

    “When they booked it at the beginning I thought it was a fundraiser in the traditional sense. I was kind of blindsided,” he said, adding if he had initially know who the organization were when booking the event, he wouldn’t have taken the booking.

    “Some of (the horse drawn carriage drivers) are just from down the road from where I grew up and the majority of them are of Irish descent,” he said.

    Upset that he has been misquoted by the media and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Healy said when he called up the woman who booked the event to tell her it was cancelled she said to him, “I don’t blame you. I don’t want my windows broken either.’

    “Those were her words and I got misquoted on it,” said Healy.

    Am I still lying? THEY are the liars. And Avella and Forel have both back tracked now because they are afraid of a law siut. Do more research before accusing innocent people!

    October 3, 2008

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