Two weekends ago, animal rights activists of Fargo-Moorhead partook in a peaceful three-day protest against the exploitation of animals in the Shrine Circus at the FargoDome.
Longtime activist Nina Berg shared her experience protesting the circus’s inhumane practices. Though the protestors were met with some opposition, Berg believes the demonstration made a difference in enlightening circus-goers to the realities of the Big Top.
How was the turnout for the protest?
BERG: For each protest we had a nice turnout. Our biggest group was 20 people and our smallest was about 8 people. This year was our biggest gathering of protesters yet so we were very happy with that.
Were there more or less people there than you’d hoped/expected?
BERG: There was about as many protesters as I expected, although I had hoped for more. A lot of the protesters were very dedicated and came for most of the shifts, while some came for a shift when their schedule allowed them to.
Did any of the days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) have a better turnout than the others?
BERG: Yes, Saturday afternoon we had our largest group of 20 people and Sunday morning was our smallest turnout.
Did you make all the signs yourselves?
BERG: We had a variety of signs that were handmade and some that were printed. There was a sign making gathering a few weekends before the protest although some signs were from previous protests. A lot of the protesters chose to invest their money into some amazing signs!
Were there any former circus-goers who joined the cause?
BERG: Yes! Many of the protesters had been to the circus as a child. We had one family who saw one of our demonstrations when they attended the circus and afterwards decided to look more into it. After they learned the truth about animals in the circus, they decided to no longer attend circuses that use animals in their acts. The 8-year-old daughter of that family saw us on the news protesting this year and that night she made her own sign and asked her mother to bring her and her sibling to join us, and they did! It was a wonderful addition to have someone there who saw our message and was moved by it.
Did you hand out brochures?
BERG: We were unable to approach circus goers while they were in their cars, but we were able to hand out some brochures that were provided to us by Animal Defenders International (ADI) to the circus goers who crossed the street at the crosswalk. Most were willing to accept the literature, although others were not as accepting.
Did anyone stop and ask you questions?
BERG: We had a few people who asked us questions. One high school-aged boy came across the street and asked us questions about the animals. He seemed very concerned for the animals’ well-being and seemed to be disturbed when he learned the truth. We gave him a brochure to look at after answering his questions. A police officer also came over to ask us how we were being received by the public and also to offer his support of our cause!
Did news reporters stop by and interview you?
BERG: We were interviewed by one newspaper reporter and three news reporters. Although only two TV stations aired the interview as far as I am aware.
Did anyone harass you?
BERG: We were harassed verbally by quite a few people. Many hand gestures were given and one car full of teenage boys circled us yelling profanities in the parking lot. Although we received a lot more support than we did opposition. There is definitely a shift for the better as people become aware that the circus is no place for animals.
BERG: I believe that the protest most definitely raised awareness. From the first year that we organized our first demo to this year, there is a definite shift in the amount of support that we have received. I believe that is evident by the number of honks, waves, cheers, claps, and thumbs up we have gotten this year compared to the years past!
Are you satisfied with media coverage of the protest?
BERG: I believe we got enough media coverage for this protest to get people thinking about it. The more attention this issue gets, the better it will be for the animals, because a light is shining on it now. Even the biggest shows are beginning to remove animals from their shows as well as many progressive communities around the globe!
What do you want the general public to know about circuses?
BERG: Circuses that use animals are not conservation and they are not educational. The only message that is getting across to people is that it is okay to force animals into a life in which they do not exist for themselves, but for the amusement of human beings. Take away any bullhooks, whips, and electric prods, and you’ll still have isolation, boredom, unsanitary conditions, animals enduring extreme temperatures, lack of exercise, food deprivation, rigorous training sessions, afflictions cause by performing unnatural stunts, lack of proper nutrition, and confinement. The animals used are individuals, not robots or amusement rides.
Is there any more information about the protest you wish to share?
BERG: I would encourage people to research into cruelty regarding animals. The information is available online. An excellent example of the cruelty that happens in our own backyard is available on YouTube: No Hollywood ending for Rosie and Tai. It is also very important to point out that we were only protesting against the use of animals in circuses, not against circuses in themselves. We want families to enjoy themselves and we want the Shriners to raise funds for their operations, but not at the expense the animals. We encourage people to donate money to the Shriners, but avoid supporting animal featured circuses. We also would like to encourage people to let the Shriners know they want to see the animal acts banned.
What’s next for the animal rights activists of Fargo-Moorhead?
BERGc: While there is nothing on the agenda as of now as far as demonstrations, I would like to encourage more legislative activism from citizens of the FM area. As a community, we can let our law makers know that we want better treatment of animals. It only takes moments of our time to make our voices heard.
– Särah Nour