By Aaron Blevins, 10/18/2012
Former game show host Bob Barker helped fund effort
When representatives of Animal Defenders International (ADI) show videos of animal abuse, the violence is what typically captures people’s attention. However, it’s the decades of neglect and the deplorable living conditions that break the animals’ spirits, they said.
Their plight was on display on Saturday, when ADI recognized its supporters and showed clips from its documentary about Operation Lion Ark, an initiative to rescue 29 circus lions from Bolivia and transport them to the U.S.
In one scene, the founders of ADI, Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips, transport a male lion from its cage on the back of a truck to a hospital crate. The lion, which had lived in the cage more than a decade, could hardly walk to its new, temporary home as a result of its circus “training.”
“How do they train them? They beat them — with clubs, fists, slapjacks, ax handles, golf clubs. They shock them, with all sorts of devices,” said former “Price Is Right” host Bob Barker, who was honored Saturday and helped fund Operation Lion Ark. “They’ve never known a day that was truly pleasure. And finally, after twenty, thirty, maybe even forty years, they die. And that day that they die is probably the best day of their lives. Isn’t that a horrible thought?”
Operation Lion Ark commenced in 2010, when ADI, which has an office on Wilshire Boulevard, secured a ban on the use of animals in circuses in Bolivia and then rescued animals from circuses across the South American country.
The organization transported the animals — 29 lions, six monkeys, a coati mundi, a deer and a horse — to other locations or returned them to the wild. The lions were taken to animal sanctuaries in Colorado and California.
“A lot of countries, especially poor countries, if they’re left with a problem, then it dissuades them from banning animal circuses,” Phillips said. “So, we have to step up and do the whole job right through the end.”
He and Creamer formed ADI in 1990, and the organization has offices in London and Colombia, as well as L.A. ADI representatives go undercover, gather evidence and seek policy changes regarding the welfare of animals at various businesses, such as animal labs, fur farms and slaughterhouses.
“They make sure it happens,” said Shannon Keith, who heads the Los Angeles office. “They win, and then they rescue the animals that need saving as a result. …They’ve seen things that most of us can’t even hear about, let alone watch.”
Saturday’s event was a fundraiser for the organization, and it was held at the home of philanthropist James Costa in the Hollywood Hills. Barker and actress Jorja Fox, of “CSI”, were honored for their help with Operation Lion Ark and for helping the organization lobby and raise awareness.
Fox received the ADI Animal Champion Award and dedicated it to “Lion No. 25”, a lion named Kimba that was rescued. She said ADI representatives had to tear down a wall to get the animal free.
“It was a very painstaking process,” Fox added.
Barker received the Lord Houghton Award, which is given to an individual every four years. Creamer said Barker’s advocacy for animals is “incalculable,” and that he has been helping organizations such as ADI grow for a number of years.
“For over 30 years, he’s been an incredible speaker and advocate for animals,” she said. “He’s shown deep personal generosity and leadership and compassion for animals. …It’s like he’s been sprinkling these seeds around the world to change the world.”
Barker praised ADI’s work and their efforts to change exotic animal policies in several countries, including Bolivia and Peru.
“When [the legislation] is enacted, all traveling shows, including circuses, will not be able to have animals in the show,” he said. “No more lions, no more tigers, no more elephants in circuses. Just think of the animal suffering that will put an end to.”
Barker referenced Have Trunks Will Travel Inc., a company in Perris, Calif., that rents elephants. ADI filmed the organization allegedly abusing the animals, and Barker said the organization has caused the business “formidable” financial problems. He said ADI is also working with the Los Angeles City Council to get circuses with animals prohibited in L.A.
“I think it would be a big step up if Los Angeles could be as civilized as Bolivia,” Barker said, eliciting a huge applause.
The former game show host intended to present ADI with another check on Saturday, but forgot it at home. Instead, he offered an IOU and ended on a “profound” thought, one that may be familiar to “Price Is Right” viewers.
“Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed and neutered,” Barker added.
For information about ADI, visit www.ad-international.org.