Consumers warned about Shrine Circus fundraising

(Kissimmee) – If you donated to the upcoming Bahia Shriners Circus in response to a phone call, the organization you were trying to help will likely receive only a small portion of your money.

Apopka’s Bahia Shriners use a for-profit telemarketing firm to sell tickets and sponsorships for children with special needs to attend the Shriners Circus at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, May 4-5.

In 2016, the most recent year from which records are available, the Bahia Shriners raised $421,369 using telemarketers, but kept only $91,319, or 21% percent. The rest went to Etsell, Inc., a telemarketing company, according to the Bahia Shriners tax return.

“Donors would be shocked to learn that a telemarketing firm pockets 75 cents of every dollar given to support the Bahia Shriners Circus,” said Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF). “If you receive a call asking you to purchase tickets to send children to the upcoming Shrine Circus, you could ask the caller how much of your donation will actually go to the charity. But the best thing to do may be to just hang up.”

ARFF would also like to point out that the Shriners Circus doesn’t raise one penny for Shriners Hospitals. Circusgoers are often misled into believing that proceeds from the circus benefit hospitals. The Shriners Hospitals for Children is a legally and financially separate organization from local Shrine temples. The small print on Shrine circus tickets make it clear that proceeds from the circus fund temple activities, not the hospitals (tickets are not considered charitable contributions). The best way to help the Shriners Hospitals for Children is to donate directly to the hospital.

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Calls to remove Silver River monkeys unwarranted

(Silver Springs, FL) — A new study of the potential dangers of wild monkeys living in Silver Springs State Park, and the resulting media coverage, was unnecessarily alarmist and overstated the dangers of herpes B virus transmission from monkeys to humans. That is the conclusion of a veterinarian with decades of experience working with primates, after reviewing the study.

“I do not agree that the Silver Springs rhesus macaques pose a serious threat to human health and safety,” said Nedim Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis, in a statement. “There was no need to alarm the public about the rhesus macaque situation and calls to eradicate the monkeys are misguided and irresponsible in my view.”

In his statement, Dr. Buyukmihci suggests that any effort to trap and remove the monkeys in the park may make the problem worse: “the stress of being hunted is likely to be counterproductive in that monkeys with latent infections may become infectious due to stress.”

(download Dr. Buyukmihci’s statement here)

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is calling on the Florida Park Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to halt any plans to use lethal methods to reduce the monkey population in Silver Springs State Park.

“The new study is an important reminder that the monkeys who live along the Silver River are wild animals, and like all wild animals, can be dangerous. But the study does not make the case for lethal control of the monkeys in Silver Springs State Park,” said Nick Atwood, ARFF Campaigns Coordinator. “The best way to protect the public from potential harm is to improve public education about the need to avoid interactions with monkeys in the park, and to strictly enforce rules against feeding or harassing monkeys.”

In October 2013, after two years of campaigning, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida celebrated when the Florida Park Service announced that it would no longer allow a trapper to remove wild monkeys from Silver Springs State Park for sale to laboratories. (Between 1998-2012, approx. 800 monkeys were trapped and removed.) At the time, the Florida Park Service said that it would explore alternative methods of reducing the monkey population at the park.

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Mobile billboard challenges Shriners at annual convention in Daytona Beach

(Daytona Beach) — An eye-catching mobile billboard in Daytona Beach will urge Shriners to replace animal circuses with alternative fundraisers.

The billboard, sponsored by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF), features an image of a circus elephant in chains and boldly declares “Animals don’t belong in the circus” and “Shriners, please end your support of cruel circuses.”

The billboard truck will circulate in Daytona Beach on Tuesday, July 11 from 11:00am until 7:00pm, the start of the Shriners parade along A1A.

The Imperial Session, the annual convention of Shriners International, will be held in Daytona Beach from July 9-13. More than 100 Shriners International temples (chapters) in the U.S. will sponsor circuses in 2017. Shrine temples partner with circuses that have poor records of animal abuse and neglect.

“There is growing awareness and concern about the treatment of elephants and other animals in the circus,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Unfortunately, the Shrine Circus is resisting change and continues to support cruel circuses.”

Shriners have been associated with circuses for a long time, but change is possible. Several Shrine temples have replaced long-running circuses with equally profitable alternatives, such as golf tournaments, car shows, festivals, or animal-free circuses.

A photo of the mobile billboard is available upon request.

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Tiger abuse caught on camera during Shrine Circus show in Kissimmee

(Kissimmee) — The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) has released disturbing video taken during the Bahia Shrine Circus at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee on Saturday, May 6.

In the video— available here: https://youtu.be/QNBthmtroZg— circus workers violently jab a tiger with sticks after the animal refuses to perform.

“This weekend, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold its final performance,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Ringling Bros. recognized that the public is turning away from cruel animal acts. Unfortunately, Shrine Circuses are resisting change and continue to transport tigers thousands of miles stuffed inside transport cages, and to force these magnificent animals to perform unnatural tricks on demand.”

Violent, physical abuse remains a common method of training and controlling animals in the circus.

ARFF activists protested outside all of the Shrine Circus performances in Kissimmee, May 6-7.

Orlando’s Bahia Shriners hired the Royal Hanneford Circus to be their 2017 “Shrine Circus.” The Royal Hanneford Circus has a long and sordid record of poor animal care and dangerous animal rampages. In November 2016, the circus agreed to pay a $7,000 fine to settle a federal complaint related to two incidents that put both animals and the public at risk.

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Advertisement calls on Florida Governor to appoint non-hunter to state wildlife agency

For Immediate Release: April 19, 2017

(Tallahassee, FL) — In today’s Tallahassee Democrat, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is running an advertisement urging Governor Rick Scott to appoint a nature photographer, a birdwatcher, or an individual with a background in wildlife conservation, to fill the next vacancy on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Today’s ad also ran in Sunday and Monday’s papers, and will run on Thursday as well, the final day of an FWC meeting in the town of Havana, north of Tallahassee.

View the ad here: www.download.arff.org/FWC-advertisement.pdf

The ad features an image of a black bear under the headline, “Florida’s wildlife belongs to all Floridians”. At this week’s meeting, the FWC will once again discuss bear management. In 2015, the FWC approved a black bear hunt despite strong public opposition. It was the first bear hunting season in Florida in 21 years.

“It is time that the FWC has a Commissioner who represents nature photographers, birders, hikers and other ‘non-consumptive’ users of Florida’s fish and wildlife,” said Don Anthony, ARFF’s Communications Director. “Most residents of Florida are not hunters, yet the FWC has long been dominated by individuals with a hunting background.”

Nature photography, along with birdwatching, hiking, canoeing and kayaking are the fastest-growing outdoor activities in America. According to the FWC’s own numbers, “wildlife viewing” has a much greater economic impact in Florida than hunting. The appointment of a photographer, birder, or wildlife advocate would add an important perspective to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Anti-circus ads on taxi cabs hit the streets of Miami

For Immediate Release: January 8, 2016

(Miami) – Activists with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) will work to educate the public about the cruelty of the circus on opening night of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Miami. A large turnout is expected. To coincide with ARFF’s protests, advertisements on 20 local taxi cabs will draw attention to Ringling’s cruel training of baby elephants.

WHAT: Circus protest
WHEN: Friday, January 8, beginning at 6:00pm
WHERE: American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

In March 2015, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would retire its elephants from circus performances by 2018. ARFF is calling for Ringling to immediately retire its elephants and to eliminate ALL animal acts.

“Ringling Bros. has recognized that the public is turning away from cruel animal acts,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Unfortunately, Ringling Bros. is delaying taking elephants off the road until 2018 and will continue to transport elephants, tigers and other wild animals thousands of miles chained in boxcars and stuffed inside transport cages, and to force animals to perform unnatural tricks on demand.”

Ringling Bros. has a long history of poor animal care. In 2011, Ringling Bros. paid a $270,000 fine to the USDA to settle allegations that it violated animal welfare laws in its handling of elephants, tigers and other animals. The fine was the largest ever against a circus! The alleged violations include elephants forced to perform when they were sick.

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