Organizers Diane Koon and Marie Galbraith stand on the sidewalk on Morgan Street attempting to educate circus-goers about animal abuse and exploitation.
About 25 demonstrators from Florida Voices for Animals stood outside of Amalie Arena Wednesday night protesting the treatment of animals by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.
Holding signs that said things like, "Boycott The Circus," "Circus Trainers are the Real Beasts," and "Ringling Beats Animals," activists waved at cars along Channelside Drive and spoke with circus-goers as they passed. They hoped to raise awareness and educate passers-by on abuse issues, said organizer Diane Koon.
Most folks walked by passively and a few accepted brochures or coloring books from the demonstrators. Some spoke harsh words and one woman flipped her middle finger in the face of a sign holder. Some cars drove by the group with a honk of support and others yelled criticism or profanity.
The mixed reaction is evidence of the divisive nature of the ongoing debate over animals being used for entertainment, and it is clear that both sides are passionate about their beliefs.
The circus is set to go on through Sunday, and so are the demonstrations.
Demonstrators protest animal abuse in front of Amalie Arena just before the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus was scheduled to begin Wednesday night.
Linda Ann (who did not give a last name) believes that baby elephants are beaten to get them to do tricks. She found out about the protest through social media, and decided to attend Wednesday night.
In response to ongoing pressure, Feld Entertainment, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's parent company, announced in March of 2015 that they were retiring their elephant herd by 2018 and moving them to the circus' conservation center in central Florida. When asked about the decision some protesters told CL
they would believe it when they see it.
Cathy Moore of Riverview has a spirited debate with animal activists saying she has been on the inside and the protesters don't understand what really happens. Moore grew up in the circus and her parents were performers. She says the animals are treated with love and are well cared for.
Cathy Moore of Riverview paused to give her opinion to some of the sign holders. She said that she grew up with the circus, her parents were performers, and that the animals are treated with love. She told CL
that the demonstrators don't understand how well circus animals are taken care of, but also believes the activists they have good, albeit misdirected, intentions.
Demonstrators outside of Amalie Arena protesting animal abuse prior to the start of the Ringling Circus' opening night of its five-day run.
The demonstrations are scheduled to continue through the weekend with most activity planned around the start times of the shows, Friday 6-7:30 pm, Saturday 4:30-7:30 pm and Sunday 1-3 pm at the intersection of Channelside Drive and South Morgan Street in downtown Tampa.