UPC President Arrested for Protesting Ostrich Abuse

Prince William County Virginia police arrested Karen Davis at the Prince William Fair near Manassas on Saturday afternoon when she was distributing the UPC brochure Nowhere To Hide to fairgoers purchasing tickets to the fair. Davis was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest and held in the Prince William Country Detention Center on $750 bond. Her hearing is set for Oct. 22nd. She told The Washington Post at the jail, "I was expressing my right to free speech and to give out educational literature. It was perfectly obvious that I was not doing anything that could be construed as violent" (Aug. 11, 1996. B7).

Ostrich PWCF
Photo by J. Porter
This is the view for ostriches at the Prince William County Fair.

Davis criticized the fair's upcoming ostriches races in which these large, wild birds with their long, fragile necks and easily broken legs are forced to run hooked to loaded chariots. Often the birds trip and fall from sheer terror and exhaustion. Ostriches can be injured and killed as a result of being forced to pull a chariot at breakneck speed in a cramped area.

Statements by the race sponsor in the press made it clear that the ostrich race's big kink is that the ostriches may run backward, try to jump hedges and do other erratic and dangerous things. Davis asked, "Why do the ostriches act this way if they are 'adapted' to captivity and the arena, as the sponsors claim? And, "Why would we choose an 'entertainment' based on the high probability and hope that a captive animal will run amok?" (Manassas Journal Messenger (Aug. 12, 1996).

Under the title of Citizens for Clean Fun Not Mean Fun, United Poultry Concerns successfully joined with ten other local animal protection groups to protest the ostrich races, circus, and rodeo at the Fair, August 9-17. We placed a large ad in the Journal Messenger: ABUSING ANIMALS FOR FUN IS NO FAIR! Davis told The Washington Post, "The whole Prince William County Fair is based on animal exploitation. It sends a very bad message to children. Children watching ostriches pulling chariots are going to see an animal that is stately and graceful in its own desert environment being reduced to looking like a gawky, awkward fool" (Aug. 12, 1996, B3).

The Journal Messenger published a magnificent editorial on Aug. 6th, "Fair protesters should have a voice." The editor concluded, "By shutting out protesters who are trying to communicate to the public the nature of animal cruelty, the fair is admitting that it is threatened by such protesters, an act which may lead one to the conclusion that they have something to hide. Fair officials will say they are protecting the fair's patrons from being maligned by abusive protesters, but in actuality they are merely gagging a group who is trying to open minds about the nature and occurrence of animal cruelty. . . . [M]orality should come before economy, and the rights of animals (great and small) should come before the right to make a buck and have a good time."

What Can I Do?

  • You may thank the Journal Messenger for taking a strong stand on behalf of free speech and public education about animal abuse and animal rights by contacting them at PO Drawer 431, Manassas, VA 20108 (ph: 703-368- 3101; fax: 9017).
  • Protest the ostrich races, circus, and rodeo at the Prince William County Fair. Urge entertainment based on the voluntary consent of all participants. Contact: Prince William County Fairgrounds, PO Box 91, Manassas, VA 20108 (ph: 703-368-0173; fax: 5534).
  • Please send a much-needed donation to United Poultry Concerns to help us cover our court costs and attorney's fees. Please send all correspondence and tax-deductible donations to United Poultry Concerns, PO Box 59367, Potomac, MD 20859. Thank you.