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How Oakland Got Animals Out of Ringling (TWICE)


100 years ago, after learning about the inherent abuses perpetrated against animals forced to perform in circuses, Oakland’s most iconic figure, Jack London — author and social activist — wrote “I have a strong stomach and a hard head, but what turns my head and makes my gorge rise is the cold-blooded, conscious deliberate cruelty and torment that is manifest behind ninety-nine of every hundred trained-animal turns. Cruelty as a fine art, has attained its perfect flower in the trained-animal world.”

London called upon the public to “inform themselves” of the “inevitable and eternal cruelty” inherent in animal acts and urged them to walk out during animal performances. Though he died soon after, his words inspired a Jack London Club comprised of one million members who distributed literature outside of circuses, wrote to the press and circus management, and indeed walked out of the circus during the animal acts.

It worked.

In 1925, Charles Ringling was quoted as saying, “There has been enough criticism by the public of wild-animal acts to warrant us in withdrawing them, as a quite common impression is prevalent that tigers, lions, etc. are taught by very rough methods, and that it is cruel to force them through their stunts.” Ringling announced that it had “discarded” animal acts “for all time.” Sadly, after five years, they resumed the use of animals in their circuses to provide cheap entertainment to the public during the Depression.

100 years later, at the end of 2014, an ordinance to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants was brought before the Oakland City Council. Bullhooks are sharp weapons used to hurt and intimidate elephants to force them to perform unnatural acts for the amusement of humans. Despite the money Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. Circus, spent to fight this ban, over 100 compassionate citizens showed up to speak on behalf of elephants, and shortly after midnight, the ban passed.

“This is the right thing to do. It’s just that simple,” said Councilmember, then Mayor-Elect (now Mayor) Libby Schaaf.

“I don’t need to have an elephant stand on one leg to see how cute he looks….I don’t learn about the elephants over at the circus while I’m sitting there entertained.” said Councilmember Noel Gallo.

“We’re not going to look the other way when it comes to torturing animals. We shouldn’t be teaching the young folks in our city that it’s okay to harm animals for our enjoyment. That is just unacceptable,” said Councilman Dan Kalb.

And in her last city council meeting as Mayor, Jean Quan presciently stated, “I am certain that the day will come when we will see a ban on elephants being used in circuses altogether.”

Three months later, in March of 2015, Ringling announced it would be removing elephants from their circuses. Without being able to use pain, fear, and intimidation to train elephants, they wouldn’t be able to force large, intelligent, autonomous beings to act in ways that are anathema to their very nature.

As cities and counties across the United States began drafting legislation similar to that which passed in Oakland (and first in Oakland’s inspiration, Los Angeles), Ringling recognized how expensive it would be to fight in local jurisdictions across the nation.

A year later, Ringling announced they were closing — for good, and indeed May 2017 saw their last performance. A victory for compassionate people everywhere, but really…a victory for animals.

This is one very powerful example of how local politics matter. Often, laws passed at the local level inspire similar laws at the state or even federal level, but here they acted as a microcosm reflecting a greater public perspective: that animal abuse is unacceptable even when shrouded in tradition and masked by spectacle.

Of course, years of protests and leafletting by activists outside of circuses contributed to Ringling’s demise and to the public’s growing distaste for circuses with animals. As did undercover footage obtained by organizations to prove with video the abuses that take place behind closed doors. As did education, as did litigation. But in the end, it was the decision of local city council members and the activists working with local legislators that led to the closing of a 150-year animal-abusing institution. That’s the power of local political action.

On the heels of this victory, I’m excited to present the Compassion in Action conference in August: a full day of presentations and workshops focused on framing your compassionate values, communicating your compassionate values, and acting on those values in effective and powerful ways — socially, politically, and personally.

I hope you can join me and dozens of like-minded individuals to help you put your values to work. The animals are waiting for us, and we have many more stories like this one to create and tell.

FAQ

Each cooking class is fully interactive. While I am demonstrating, you can chime in with comments, questions, and ooohs and ahhhs the entire time. Not only does this increase connection among the students, both my assistant and I see your questions and make sure we answer all of them.
You can participate in the class using Zoom on your computer, tablet or mobile device.
Upon completing your registration, you receive your confirmation email, which includes the link to our Zoom class, along with information and recipes. Each class is officially a go once a minimum number of slots are filled — at which time the recipes appear on the document. My goal is to have the recipes available to you at least 5 days before the class to give you enough time to order / shop for ingredients, should you choose to cook along.
While I love to see the faces of my students, the use of video during the live class is optional. NOTE: Even if you opt to show your video, for the class recordings, which go out to the general public as on-demand classes, NO ONE'S video is shown except for mine.
We do our best to prepare you in advance so you are ready for when the class begins. If you have issues during the class, my assistant is there to help you. Sometimes it's an issue on the user side, and when there's an issue on my side, we do our best to mitigate it right away. One of the benefits of live classes is that they're in real time, which means it's a live feed. Sometimes technical issues are out of our control, but so far, we've never had any real issues that took away from the purpose of the class.
Absolutely! Unless something goes horribly wrong (and it rarely does), each class is recorded, and students receive the class recording within 2 days of the live class.
While I do send a reminder email out a couple days before our class, I encourage you to add the class to your calendar as soon as you register.
Some students love being able to cook along; some students love to just watch. It is entirely up to you how you want to enjoy the class.
You can decide in advance which dishes you want to cook along with. You might choose to cook along for just one of the dishes or all of them. Whatever you decide, I suggest you have your mise en place all ready. That is to say, have all the ingredients measured and prepped as much as possible. (Mise en place is a French culinary phrase meaning "everything in its place.”)
Ultimately, what we take away is based on what we give, so I encourage you to be present and engaged in the class. But, for my part, if you know me, you know I'm pretty passionate about many things, and I can’t help bringing my love of food, history, language, animals, film, literature, and food lore to each class. My aim is that you walk away with a richer understanding of food, cooking, and eating than before you arrived. More than that, you will get helpful step-by-step instructions about each dish I'm demonstrating and a clear up-close view of all the ingredients and procedures. The best part is that I, too, make mistakes, and you see me make them live in real time. That's how we learn the most.
I'm thrilled to say that many students are regulars and repeats, and you will no doubt get to know some fabulous people when you attend these classes. I encourage engagement and follow-up, including posting photos, questions, and comments on our private Facebook page. Many friends and family members join from different cities, then share a virtual meal with each other once the class is over. (That makes my heart sing.) So, yes, despite being online the classes foster connection.
I have found that 60 minutes is the ideal amount of time to spend in a virtual class. Sometimes we stick around a little longer to finish something up or to enjoy a bonus cocktail by our resident mixologist (my adorable husband), but we like to honor your time and keep the classes to 60 minutes. (Some special / holiday classes are scheduled for 90 minutes, but they’re the exception.) If we go over and you need to drop off, you can always view the video later.
Absolutely! Once you are registered and the class is a go, you are officially enrolled. That means the recipes, resources, video recording, and even the chat transcript are yours to enjoy. You will receive a follow-up email whether you are in the live class or not.
Because the value of the classes includes exclusive recipes and resources as well as the live class / video recording, once a class is officially a go and you get access to the recipes, you cannot be refunded. However, if the class does not meet the minimum sign-up threshold and I cancel the class, you have the option of getting a full refund or switching to a different class. (This is one of the reasons I don't share the recipes until I know we've reached the minimum threshold.)
After the live class is over and enjoyed by students in real time, each class gets converted into an on-demand class so that others may enjoy the recipes, resources, and video recording. Most live classes become on-demand classes within 2 days.
No animal products are ever used in my recipes, so yes, all the classes are vegan / plant-based, which means nothing that comes out of or off of an animal. I've written three cookbooks (The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, and Color Me Vegan), and two lifestyle books (Vegan’s Daily Companion and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge), which also include recipes. I'm also always testing and developing new recipes (as well as modifying and perfecting old ones) to make sure students get the best, clearest, easiest-to-follow recipes — qualities that have become trademark in my work.
While living compassionately and consciously is not about being perfect, and while some students may not have access to the same bulk stores and package-free ingredients as me, I make an effort in my classes to use (and promote) as little packaging and plastic as possible, which is why so many of my recipes and menus are for how to cook and bake homemade and from-scratch!
My classes span a huge range, and your suggestions are always welcome: *Different types of cuisines (Italian, Thai, Asian, Mexican, etc.) *Particular ways of cooking and eating (Quick & Easy, Oil-free, By Color/Phytochemicals, ) *Cooking with specific appliances (Air-Fryer, Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker / Crockpot, etc.) *Homemade from scratch (Seitan, Tempeh, Tofu, Miso, Nut Cheeses, Nut Butters, etc.) *Various holidays and seasons (Mother’s Day, Easter, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Summer, Fall, etc.) *Focused on meals (Packed Lunches, Breakfast, Brunch, Fancy Dinner, Quick Dinner, etc.) *Cooking with specific foods/ ingredients (Aquafaba, Beans, Spices & Herbs, Greens, Lentils, Grains, etc. *Baking from scratch (Pizza Dough, Breads, Pretzels, Bagels, and Biscuits, Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, etc.) *And everything in between.
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