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Tag: los angeles

How Oakland Got Animals Out of the Circus (TWICE)!

100 years ago, after learning about the inherent abuses perpetrated against animals forced to perform in circuses, Oakland’s most iconic figure, Jack London — author and social activist — wrote “I have a strong stomach and a hard head, but what turns my head and makes my gorge rise is the cold-blooded, conscious deliberate cruelty and torment that is manifest behind ninety-nine of every hundred trained-animal turns. Cruelty as a fine art, has attained its perfect flower in the trained-animal world.”

London called upon the public to “inform themselves” of the “inevitable and eternal cruelty” inherent in animal acts and urged them to walk out during animal performances. Though he died soon after, his words inspired a Jack London Club comprised of one million members who distributed literature outside of circuses, wrote to the press and circus management, and indeed walked out of the circus during the animal acts.

It worked.

In 1925, Charles Ringling was quoted as saying, “There has been enough criticism by the public of wild-animal acts to warrant us in withdrawing them, as a quite common impression is prevalent that tigers, lions, etc. are taught by very rough methods, and that it is cruel to force them through their stunts.” Ringling announced that it had “discarded” animal acts “for all time.” Sadly, after five years, they resumed the use of animals in their circuses to provide cheap entertainment to the public during the Depression.

100 years later, at the end of 2014, an ordinance to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants was brought before the Oakland City Council. Bullhooks are sharp weapons used to hurt and intimidate elephants to force them to perform unnatural acts for the amusement of humans. Despite the money Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. Circus, spent to fight this ban, over 100 compassionate citizens showed up to speak on behalf of elephants, and shortly after midnight, the ban passed.

“This is the right thing to do. It’s just that simple,” said Councilmember, then Mayor-Elect (now Mayor) Libby Schaaf.

“I don’t need to have an elephant stand on one leg to see how cute he looks….I don’t learn about the elephants over at the circus while I’m sitting there entertained.” said Councilmember Noel Gallo.

“We’re not going to look the other way when it comes to torturing animals. We shouldn’t be teaching the young folks in our city that it’s okay to harm animals for our enjoyment. That is just unacceptable,” said Councilman Dan Kalb.

And in her last city council meeting as Mayor, Jean Quan presciently stated, “I am certain that the day will come when we will see a ban on elephants being used in circuses altogether.”

Three months later, in March of 2015, Ringling announced it would be removing elephants from their circuses. Without being able to use pain, fear, and intimidation to train elephants, they wouldn’t be able to force large, intelligent, autonomous beings to act in ways that are anathema to their very nature.

As cities and counties across the United States began drafting legislation similar to that which passed in Oakland (and first in Oakland’s inspiration, Los Angeles), Ringling recognized how expensive it would be to fight in local jurisdictions across the nation.

A year later, Ringling announced they were closing — for good, and indeed May 2017 saw their last performance. A victory for compassionate people everywhere, but really…a victory for animals.

This is one very powerful example of how local politics matter. Often, laws passed at the local level inspire similar laws at the state or even federal level, but here they acted as a microcosm reflecting a greater public perspective: that animal abuse is unacceptable even when shrouded in tradition and masked by spectacle.

Of course, years of protests and leafletting by activists outside of circuses contributed to Ringling’s demise and to the public’s growing distaste for circuses with animals. As did undercover footage obtained by organizations to prove with video the abuses that take place behind closed doors. As did education, as did litigation. But in the end, it was the decision of local city council members and the activists working with local legislators that led to the closing of a 150-year animal-abusing institution. That’s the power of local political action.

Vegan in Los Angeles

Now that I’m having a love affair with Los Angeles, here are some highlights from our recent visit.

My love of California has been steady since I first visited this state in 1990, eight years before I moved here from New Jersey. My love of Los Angeles has been more recent, but it’s been steadfast for the last 15 years. Several years ago, David and I decided to get to know the city more to see what all the fuss is about. And though I cannot say I have any desire to live there, we’re thrilled we have the opportunity — between his work and mine — to go down every few months.

This recent visit was particularly special because we were celebrating several joyous occasions: our 15-year wedding anniversary as well as the wedding of a dear friend of mine who married the love of her life. Here are some highlights from our trip with recommendations for your next visit.

*We always stay at the Huntley hotel in Santa Monica. Nothing beats the view or the proximity to the beach and the shops, but it’s also at the edge of all the hustle and bustle, and the residential neighborhood is my favorite place to run. The rooftop restaurant/bar at the Huntley is one of the city’s most popular, so it can get pretty crowded, but we put together an impromptu Happy Hour there on a Friday night and had no problem finding seats and getting served. (And the service is always stellar.) I often spend hours up in the restaurant writing away and trying not to get distracted by the view of the Pacific Ocean. Although it’s not the most vegan-friendly of restaurants, there’s always something to eat, whether it’s a salad or the veganized pizza.

*For our anniversary dinner, David surprised me with reservations at Crossroads, which we still hadn’t ever been to. It was fantastic — the ambiance (warm and romantic), the service (attentive without hovering), the drink menu (extensive), and the food (best kale caesar and best brownie I’ve ever had!). We can’t wait to go back.

*Other places we ate in Santa Monica: Tender Greens, a chain I went to because of outdoor seating, free wifi, and vegan options, though I wouldn’t go back again. The food was mediocre at best, and the smell of steak and other dead flesh — even while sitting outside — was unbearable. Flower Child was definitely a much better lunch option over Tender Greens. I wouldn’t necessarily sit there to work, but the food was really good, and there was lots of variety; friendly staff, and bright open space. We also ate at Erven Restaurant, which has taken over the old Real Food Daily space. Lots of interesting flavors in the food, a great wine list, and lovely service. We’d probably go again, but I worry that there’s nothing that stands out enough about it to be a major draw.

*Once downtown after celebrating our friends’ wedding, we signed up for a walking tour, one of the best ways to get to know a city. I highly recommend Downtown LA Walking Tours — lots of different tours to choose from, and the host knows his stuff and loves what he does.

*We walked around on our own a bit as well and just fell in love with the architecture downtown. Some highlights for me were a) seeing Union Station, where many of my favorite Film Noir films have scenes AND where the pivotal scene in The Way We Were (one of my favorite movies) was filmed. I had no idea until I stood at the restaurant that the iconic argument scene was filmed there. b) the public library was beautiful c) the courtyard at the Disney concert hall was just beautiful and d) I knew right away that there was a link between the architecture at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (in L.A.) and The Cathedral of Christ the Light (in my city of Oakland), and I was right. (I think the latter is more stunning, however.) Oh, and it was lovely to see where Gregory Peck and his wife are interred.

*After several hours of walking, we headed straight to Au Lac (right across from the Disney concert hall) and enjoyed a delicious lunch. We’d been there before, but we really looked forward to going again, and we weren’t disappointed.

From there, we headed straight back to our hotel to pack up our things and hop in an Uber to the airport. We’re back in our beloved city of Oakland, but we’re already planning our next visit to the city of angels.