Savannah pupils seem to ignore wounded elephant campaign

Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 10:17 AM
Last updated 10:19 AM
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SAVANNAH -- The circus animal cruelty protest outside Hodge Elementary School didn't have a big impact on the children.

Hodge Elementary School student Torrie Harris hugs Ellie the wounded elephant during a PETA demonstration Wednesday afternoon.  Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News
Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News
Hodge Elementary School student Torrie Harris hugs Ellie the wounded elephant during a PETA demonstration Wednesday afternoon.

Some students stopped outside the school after dismissal Wednesday to get free "ele-friend" stickers from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and hug an activist wearing a fuzzy elephant costume.

But an end-of-the-day announcement over the school's loudspeaker warning children not to speak to strangers - even those in costume - foiled the animal rights group's plans to reach hundreds of impressionable minds.

Even those youngsters who couldn't resist the costumed character seemed oblivious to the "circuses are no fun for animals" signs, and they didn't seem to notice the strip of gauze with a splash of fake blood around the fuzzy elephant's head.

"I want to go to the circus! I want to go to the circus," Torrie Harris said excitedly as she got her hug and circus animal cruelty book from the PETA protesters.

Her mother, LaWanda Sanders, wasn't particularly moved by the "Animals Belong in the Jungle" activity book her daughter received. Sanders said she already has plans to take her children to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when it comes to town later this month.

"On the 21st," she said. "I sure am."

PETA is an animal rights organization known for demonstrations and advertisements designed to draw media attention to their cause. Activists are in this area to protest the upcoming performances of the circus at the Savannah Civic Center Jan. 21-24.

The organization has spoken out against everything from wearing fur and eating meat to President Barack Obama killing a fly during a televised interview. After University of Georgia mascot Uga VII died last year, the organization urged athletic director Damon Evans to replace him with an animatronic dog.

Before coming to Savannah, the group battled with Columbia officials who denied their request to display a sculpture of a teary eyed baby circus elephant with a blanket that says, "See Shackles, Bullhooks, Lonliness - All Under the Big Top."

Circus officials are counteracting by blanketing the community with their own public relations campaign. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus clowns scheduled free performances for children's groups throughout the week at public libraries, Backus Children's Hospital, Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart.

Their circus-themed educational outreach programs promote reading, physical fitness and science.

Janice Aria, the circus' animal stewardship director, is quick to defend the treatment and care of circus animals. She runs the 200-acre reserve in Florida where the circus houses its retired and non-performing elephants.

"If I knew that this country treated its elderly the way Ringling cares for its elephants, I'd be entering my twilight years much less reluctantly," Aria said.

She argued the schoolyard is no place for PETA protesters to pursue their agenda.

"There's no secret animal activists are against what we do. They're opposed to the human interaction and entertainment aspect of what we do with elephants," she said. "The idea of taking this to kids is preposterous."

But the kids outside Hodge on Wednesday didn't seem interested in getting caught up in the debate.

"I don't know about all that stuff with the elephants," Taishai Brunson said,

"But I do know the circus tickets are (priced) high."

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Edward1968 01/07/10 - 11:35 am
PETA!!! What can I say!!

PETA!!! What can I say!! Hodge is in a questionable part of Savannah. That elephant could have received REAL wounds.

Edward1968 01/07/10 - 11:36 am
Hey, where was the Hodge Bear

Hey, where was the Hodge Bear during all of this??

rbk 01/07/10 - 12:33 pm
I guess if PETA people were

I guess if PETA people were living in the era before the automobile and tractor, they would have walked everywhere they went and the farmers would have been pulling the plow themselves because it would be unethical to make a horse or mule work. How stupid can you get.

Fiat_Lux 01/07/10 - 03:01 pm
I love Savannah! PETA

I love Savannah! PETA demonstrates and it ends up being PR that helps the circus. What a bunch of do-dos, thinking little kids would "get it" about their issues instead of focusing on the circus. I mean, how stupid can you be? Don't these people know any children? Oh, wait. They abort all theirs!

Newsreader 01/07/10 - 04:17 pm
This sounds like the PR idea

This sounds like the PR idea since "new Coke".

corgimom 01/07/10 - 07:56 pm
If my child were on school

If my child were on school property and a total stranger would be allowed to hug my child, whoop akk wouldn't even describe what I would do.

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