22 March 2017

“Protesters claim victory in picketing Ostrich Festival”

East Valley Tribune, Chandler, Arizona, March 19, 2017

“One of the highlights of the evening was when a reporter from the East Valley Tribune came by and took pictures and interviewed us to get our opinions.” – Robert Franklin

Here it is! – and here’s the brochure we created for the protest


Protesters claim victory in picketing Ostrich Festival

Tribune Contributor

Ostrich race protester holding a sign (Kimberly Carrillo/Tribune Staff Photographer)
Willow Wind shows her support for the ostriches in her Freedom of Speech area of the Chandler Ostrich Festival

Animal-rights activists are claiming victory after they say they steered some people away from a Chandler festival where they believe ostriches are abused for entertainment.

About 35 protesters representing the Arizona Vegan Animal Liberation Activists and United Poultry Concerns carried signs pleading for the end of ostrich races at the 29th Annual Chandler Chamber Ostrich Festival recently.

They said it's unnatural and harmful for ostriches to be forced to run with jockeys riding on their backs. Festival organizers and some people in the public, however, said the ostriches are treated well and are strong enough to withstand the racing, which they consider a fun, family-friendly activity.

Arizona Vegan Animal Liberation Activists organizer Robert Franklin of Phoenix said three different families heading to the festival told the protesters they decided not to attend the event after all because of the activists' signs.

The protesters carried signs at the corner of McQueen Road and Celebration Way with pictures and messages meant to generate sympathy for the flightless birds. They protested in a roped-off area near the north gate of the festival at Tumbleweed Park on East Germann Road.

"It's a huge win," Franklin said. "What we accomplished was to empower more people to take a stand against animal exploitation."

One of the prostester's signs said "ALL Animals feel fear and pain! They are not on this earth for human amusement!! #boycottostrichfest." Another said "Stop the ostrich races!" and one sign said, "The only thing we need from animals is forgiveness. #Notyourentertainment"

Franklin of Phoenix has watched the ostrich races in the past.

"Honestly, it brought me to tears," said Franklin, 37. "I've always had an affinity for animals.

"Just because we can do something to an animal, does it mean we should?" he added. "Maybe it's something we did 100 years ago. This is 2017."

Franklin said he believes the unnatural action of carrying jockeys on their backs and the noise from people close to the ostriches is "absolutely traumatizing" to the animals.

However, festival organizers say the utmost care is taken to keep the ostriches healthy and they're doing what comes naturally to them - running.

Terri Kimble, president/CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, which owns the festival, said ostriches run around a small track. Each race lasts only about 30 seconds, and each ostrich only races in one event per day, Kimble added.

Ostrich races were held twice on March 10, three times on March 11 and three times on March 12, with about 20 ostriches participating altogether.

Kimble said that the race is less than a quarter-mile and that an ostrich farmer spends the rest of the time talking to the audience about ostriches, and showing off emus, zebras and camels.

She said ostriches can run up to 45 miles per hour and weigh up to 350 pounds.

Their legs are powerful enough to kill a mountain lion," Kimble added. "They like to run."

She said an exotic bird veterinarian is on call around the clock to help the ostriches if they have problems. Kimble also said each jockey weighed less than 145 pounds and was "well-trained" to work with ostriches.

"We teach everybody to respect animals," she said. "I don't know how much more responsible we can be."

Ostrich Festival committee chairman Ralph Guariglio of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce board said the Kansas farmer who owns the ostriches is "enormously passionate" about his birds.

"He treats them better than I treat my dogs," Guariglio said. "They (ostriches) don't do anything that's unnatural."

The protesters disagreed.

Franklin said the ostriches probably run often but making them carry a jockey "is not a natural behavior for them."

Protester Carrie Klute, 38, of Tempe, said "all animals deserve respect."

"Ostriches are not meant for human entertainment," Klute said. "The animals, they don't have a voice."

Stephen and Danielle Antonwicz of Gilbert and their daughter, Rhyan, 8, also carried signs protesting Friday night.

"These ostriches, they feel," Danielle Antonwicz said. "It is making a mockery of a living being."

Rhyan said festival-goers were just "riding rides and not even caring that animals are getting hurt."

The protesters talked to married couple Becky and Joel Hoffmann of Chandler as they left the festival, but didn't get much sympathy.

"I think it's a little silly," Becky Hoffmann said of the protests. "I don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying the animals."

Joel Hoffmann said it was "hard to judge whether there's something extreme one way or another" but the race was a "good show for kids."

However, Amy Lent, 44, of Chandler, had concerns about the races.

"I tend to be more of an animal-sensitive person," Lent said. "My guess is that's not what they (ostriches) normally do.

"It's important that people stop and think, 'Is this good for animals?'" she said.

Kimble with the Chamber of Commerce said festival organizers were happy to set aside a freedom-of-speech area where activists could picket. The festival reserves an area for activists every year.

UPC Editor’s Note: But as Robert Franklin explains in Ostrich Festival Protest Report 21 March 2017, he arranged with the Chandler Police Department to get a much more visible protest area than the spot originally assigned to the protesters. This, too, is a victory for the protesters.