The New Hampshire Animal Rights League believes that wild animals belong in the wild and that no animal should be made to perform for our entertainment. When we confine animals to zoos, aquariums, and marine parks, we take away their right to live in their natural habitat.
Like us, many animals have complex social structures and form strong attachments to family members. Captive animals are often kidnapped from the wild at a young age. Horses, bulls, and other domesticated animals bred to perform are separated from their families.
Zoos, Aquariums, and Marine Parks
Just as animals should not be taken from their natural homes, they should not be made to perform for our entertainment. It might appear as if the animals who do tricks in circuses and marine parks are having a good time, but this is mostly illusion. Since the actions they are made to perform are unnatural behaviors, the process of training them often involves inflicting pain — pain they can avoid only by performing the unnatural behavior.
One Lonely Orca
The New Hampshire Animal Rights League is actively involved in “Until Lolita is Home,” a grassroots movement that advocates for the retirement of Lolita, a lonely orca held captive at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida.
Lolita, also known as Tokitae, was taken from her family off the coast of Washington state in 1970. During her capture, more than 80 orcas were rounded up, with seven of the young ones taken and sold to marine parks around the world.
Since being purchased by the Miami Seaquarium 50 years ago, Lolita has spent every day of her life in a tank that is only 20 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep, too shallow for her even to dive.
After a visit to the Miami Seaquarium, Howard Garrett of Orca Network wrote of Lolita:
“How does she do it, how does she face each day, all day, all night in total isolation, to live within these same lifeless white walls.”
— Howard Garrett, Orca Network
Lolita’s captivity concerns the New Hampshire Animal Rights League not only because it is cruel but also because three of our state’s premier destinations, Story Land, Water Country, and Living Shores Aquarium, were at one time owned by the same company that owns the Miami Seaquarium, Palace Entertainment. Miami Seaquarium has since been sold to The Dolphin Company, a Mexico-based company that operates 32 aquatic theme parks in eight counties.
Despite the change in park ownership, the New Hampshire Animal Rights League remains invested in the fight to free Lolita.
By raising awareness about Lolita, NHARL hopes that one day she will see her home waters again.
There is an excellent retirement plan in place that would allow her to live in a sea pen in her native waters and reunite with her family.
Despite having been separated from them for decades, when played a recording of their vocalizations, known only to that pod, Lolita appeared to recognize the calls.
Her mother, and other members of Lolita’s orca “pod,” were spotted off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia in March 2020. In the summer to follow, we collected 24,000 signatures asking for her retirement and submitted the petition to the corporate powers that control her fate, as well as the state attorney for Miami-Dade county.
Living Shores Aquarium
It defies logic that at a time of growing awareness about the injustice of capturing and confining wild animals, a company would decide to open a new aquarium. Yet Palace Entertainment did just that, opening Living Shores Aquarium at Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire, on November 4, 2019.
Just four months later, the aquarium was written up for Animal Welfare Act violations. The more serious of the two violations resulted in an Asian small-clawed otter being injured so severely that her forelimb had to be amputated.
NHARL responded with a letter to the Conway Daily Sun and a Facebook post that reached more than 11K people.
Other Animal Exhibitors in NH
An entity wanting to exhibit animals (not any animal, only certain ones) must apply to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a license and comply with Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations. Licensed animal exhibitors are subject to government inspections.
The names of licensed animal exhibitors are publicly available. As of March 2020, the list of New Hampshire individuals and businesses holding animal exhibitor licenses included:
- Wildlife Encounters LLC (Barrington, NH)
- Charmingfare Farm Inc. (Candia, NH)
- Story Land and Living Shores Aquarium (Festival Fun Parks) (Glen, NH)
- Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (Holderness, NH)
- Santa’s Village Inc. (Jefferson, NH)
- Clark’s Trading Post (Lincoln, NH)
- Michelle’s Menagerie (Michele Debye) (Londonderry, NH)
- A Dean King (Merrimack, NH)
- Polar Caves Park (Resort Enterprises, Inc.) (Rumney, NH)
- Maria Laycox (Salisbury, NH)
What You Can Do
- Do not visit zoos, aquariums, or marine parks. Teach your family that wild animals belong in the wild and find ways to appreciate them from afar.
- Watch Blackfish, The Whale Bowl (Lolita’s full story), and Lolita: Slave to Entertainment
- Read or listen to Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish written by former orca trainer John Hargrove
Bull riding in New Hampshire?
Unfortunately, yes. The Professional Bull Riders tour has been coming to the SNHU Arena in Manchester since 2020.
Rodeos, Circuses, and Agricultural fairs
Humans are naturally drawn to animals, usually from a very young age. This is the reason that events featuring animals are such popular destinations for families with young children. But our desire to be close to animals often leads us to put our own interests before theirs. Events such as rodeos, circuses, and agricultural fairs highlight this unequal relationship.
This traditional rodeo event, where riders compete to see who can stay atop a bucking bull the longest, has become a popular standalone sport. Professional bull riders travel to venues across the United States, competing in televised events broadcast to major sports networks. Hitched to their trucks are trailers full of animals, transported from one big city to the next.
“…the world’s best bull riding athletes against the toughest animal athletes on the planet… a share of more than $10 million in prize money including the $1 million year-end bonus for the season’s best bull rider… Each event is wrapped in a rock concert environment, complete with pulsating music, explosive pyrotechnics and fast-paced production.”
— from the Professional Bull Riders web site
Pictures of the “animal athletes” are displayed right alongside those of the “human athletes.”
An Industry on the Defensive
Those connected with the business of bull riding (and it is big business) defend it against claims of cruelty to animals. In fact, the Professional Bull Riders web site includes a section on “Animal Welfare” to address common questions and allay worries about the treatment of the bulls.
The common belief that a strap is wrapped around a bull’s testicles to make him buck is largely discredited. Ample close-up video of bucking bulls exists, and the bucking strap, which is an irritant, is cinched around the animal’s mid-section, not his testicles.
Another common concern is the use of cattle prods. The industry does not deny using cattle prods, which they refer to as “hot shots,” but are quick to say that the real reason bulls buck is breeding.
“The bulls are bred to do what they do. They’re not bred to be a meat animal, they’re not bred to be a dairy animals, they’re bred to be a bucking bull… and these guys are bred to do what they do, they know what their job is.”
— Matt Scharping, Professional Bull Riders
Whether it’s breeding, training, inflicted pain, or some combination of these things that causes the bulls to buck is up for debate. The question to ask is whether the animal would choose to be there given a choice.
NHARL has been on site at the SNHU Arena in to demonstrate against each Professional Bull Riders event.
One year a police officer on traffic duty struck up a conversation with us. After learning about what the bulls are put through, he said he wished he hadn’t been assigned to work the event.
In 2020 we observed a lone bull in an open trailer, parked on Willow Street outside the arena for the duration of the event.
In 2021, our Op-Ed, Bull Riding Doesn’t Belong in NH, or Anywhere, was published in the Union Leader.
Riders Also at Risk
If imagining the bull’s experience is not enough to make one question the “sport,” bull riding is also extremely dangerous to riders.
The Professional Bull Riders web site includes a running “Injury Report.” Riders regularly suffer concussions, pelvic and back injuries, broken bones, and lacerations. An event without an injury is the exception.
Fatal accidents happen as well:
- In January 2019, a rider competing in a Professional Bull Riders event in Denver died from his injuries after being pulled under a bull and trampled.
- In May of 2018, a rider competing in a Professional Bull Riders event in Brazil was killed after the bull he was riding bucked and trampled him.