Arizona People for Animal Rights Arrested for Ostriches

First protest of the ostrich industry in the nation

By Joyce DePalma
Serey Lester Hatchlings
Photo of painting, courtesy John Seerey-Lester
"On one occasion I saw and sketched a female tending her hatchlings. The young will get careful attention from both male and female adults before they develop the necessary independence to be on the move with the family group."
John Seerey-Lester
Artist, "The Hatchlings"

At this so-called family event, terrified birds are forced to race with people on their backs, or hooked to chariots holding people. Quite often they trip or collapse from sheer exhaustion. Many are injured or even killed. This year the festival has added a new atrocity. They will be serving ostrich meat. Imagine the horror of being forced to run under a tremendous weight while smelling the burning flesh of your family.

On March 12, 1995, activists from Arizona People for Animal Rights (APAR) made history when over 35 members staged the nation's first-ever protest against the brutal ostrich industry at the Ostrich Festival in Chandler, AZ--site of infamous chariot races, in which the terrified birds are forced to pull a chariot at breakneck speed in a cramped area.

Hundreds of festivalgoers learned of the hidden cruelties of the industry as dozens of APAR activists, signs and leaflets in hand, entered the festival grounds and passed out over a thousand pieces of literature, while inside the racing arena 3 particularly noisy activists were busy giving festival organizers a headache as they handcuffed themselves to the announcer's podium, unfurled a pro-animal banner, and chanting, "There's No Excuse For Animal Abuse!" refused to leave the arena--stopping the ostrich races!

Over 5,000 people watched as angry festival organizers, failing in their attempts to forcefully eject the handcuffed activists, turned to local police, who arrested the three on disorderly conduct charges and transported them to jail, where they were released 8 hours later after posting $250.00 bond each.

With exposure in over 21 different media outlets, the protest against animal cruelty was big news in the normally sleepy city of Chandler. The action received attention from all the major TV stations, newspapers and radio shows in the area--attention the Ostrich Festival would like to forget. Don't let them forget! Please write the festival organizers and tell them to stop exploiting ostriches. Contact: Steve Vrieck, Chandler Chamber of Commerce, 218 N. Arizona Ave, Chandler, AZ 85224 (ph: 602-963-4571). Joyce DePalma is president of APAR (745 N. Gilbert Rd, Suite 124-184, Gilbert AZ 85234. ph: 602-813-2727).

A follow-up op-ed article by Roberta S. Wright in the Mesa Tribune said, "Newspaper articles and opinions were very positive regarding the use of ostriches for entertainment and food; [however] any picture that does not include the human side of owning these birds, the side that is base, self-serving, greedy, cruel and completely indifferent to suffering, is terribly incomplete. And yet, that is where the real story is."

Cloverdale, CA (rural area near Santa Rosa) 22 Protesters from Vegan Action, Sonoma People for Animal Rights, In Defense of Animals, and Farm Sanctuary formed a very visible presence at the Great Western Emu & Ostrich Expo on April 8, 1995. Prompted by United Poultry Concerns and organized by Leor Jacobi of Vegan Action, the protest included vivid signs and a Farm Sanctuary banner, "Keep Ostriches And Emus Free." Protesters handed out UPC's new brochure on ostriches & emus, "Nowhere To Hide." Responding to an emu exploiter's "We use the meat, leather, eggs, feathers, the whole animal much like the buffaloes in the earlier days," Jacobi was quoted in The Press Democrat, "Americans don't need another meat to eat."

What Can I Do?

  • If you encounter news touting the ostrich-emu industry, write a protest letter to the editor or program director. Conduct a protest demonstration if an ostrich-emu convention is being held in your area. Oppose any bills that seek to promote ostrich-emu production in your state. Do not buy an ostrich feather-duster or anything made of ostrich or emu flesh, feathers, oil (which may be listed in skin-care products as "kalays"), or "hyde." Explain to stores that may sell these items why the item is unacceptable and give them a copy of the UPC information brochure, "Nowhere To Hide." Order 20 for $4.
To order prints of "The Hatchlings," call 1-800-699-9693.