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Tonya Kay

Tonya Kay photo courtesy Tonya KayTonya Kay is an actress, TV personality, professional dancer and danger artist living in Los Angeles. A vegetarian of 28 years, vegan for 18 of those and raw vegan for the last 11, Tonya Kay pioneers the green health movement with appearances, publications and green media (available at KayosMarket). Watch Tonya Kay's self-produced web series The Eco Tourist on EcoHearth's Eco Tube. You may have also seen her recently on TV's My Ride Rules, The Tonight Show, Criminal Minds, Glee, House MD, Secret Girlfriend and American Idol with Rhianna. She has performed live in STOMP, De La Guarda, with Panic At The Disco, Kenny Rogers and in countless music videos and commercials. Look for Tonya Kay in the new Muppets Movie, starring in MTV Network's Video Game Reunion, playing a lead in the scripted animal-activist feature film, Bold Native, performing the voice of Green Girl in the raw vegan superhero animated film Rawman and Green Girl and performing burlesque live in Hollywood, California, almost any weekend. In 2012, Tonya Kay will star in the films Off World and Within The Darkness. For more on Tonya Kay, visit her website.

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Circus Elephants, Part 2: Cole Bros. Circus
Sunday, 24 March 2013 00:00  |  Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry

Elephants at the Circus photo by Katherine JohnsonLast week in Circus Elephants, Part 1: Seeing With Newly Informed Eyes, I shared how hard I had tried to be a dutiful journalist and nab opposing viewpoints on elephants in circuses, only to be shut down suddenly, have interviewees drop out at the last minute and even be called horrible names entirely unprovoked—all for asking informed questions. I then teamed up with another writer (referenced below as Unnamed Journalist) who had created his own journalistic opportunities on the same controversial elephants-in-circuses story and got to sit in on a slew of email conversations that, when all the chitchat is edited out, is unintentionally revealing.

The Story Changed
This isn't the story I wanted to write. I wanted to offer rich interviews with human perspective and unique points of view. Nothing would have pleased me more than to report that the circus is agreeably transparent, friendly with the educated public and proud of their work in the performing-animal industry. However, since all of my interviewees strangely failed me, I was left with only the option of assembling their voices from their email conversations, which are quite revealing in themselves.

Here's what they themselves "said" in typing (all dates are from 2009; the italics type is my emphasis; the words in brackets are there to protect the identity of the Unnamed Journalist):

The Email Trail
Craig J. Snedikel, Fire Marshal of the Township of North Brunswick, New Jersey, 8/19; "We are getting more than normal amounts of calls from humane society members ... in regards to the way the elephants are treated ... Can you provide information ... to shut these people up."

Renee Storey, Vice President of Administration of the Cole Bros. Circus, 8/19: "As always, we welcome people who have interest in animal welfare and a sincere desire to learn more about the training methods and animal husbandry practices of circus animal caretakers ... Unfortunately, the people who forward complaints about circus animals are those who base their opinions on what they have read on the internet, as published by organizations such as PETA that embrace a very radical agenda, one more concerned with success—by any means—than with truth. We invite people opposed to use of animals to visit our animal compounds and speak with our trainers. As you know, the complainers prefer to adhere to their preconceived notions, lest discovery of the facts disappoint them."

Georgia's Unnamed Newspaper publishes Unnamed Journalist's article about circuses, the focus of which is positive alternatives to circuses. Neither specific circus conditions nor specific circus names are mentioned in the article.

After Publication
Dan Baltulonis, Sr. Marketing Director of the Cole Bros. Circus, 9/13: "This e-mail is for [Unnamed Journalist]. I recently read your article re Circuses ... I am one of the Sr. Marketing Directors for the Cole Bros. Circus. As of this writing [Unnamed Journalist] has not contacted me to set up any interviews with any of our elephant staff members or our management. As a "responsible reporter" [he] should contact us so we can update you & your readers about our animal care/wellness policy, our USDA inspections with the results & any other questions you may have. I am inviting you to see firsthand how our elephant & other animal staff care for the animals on the Cole Bros. Circus. Instead of bringing up half-truths, outright lies, incidents that have happened so long ago that nobody that is currently in the various animal departments were on the show & misinformation. [Unnamed Journalist] can visit us anytime, anywhere on this tour, or any other future tour, so [he] can observe for [himself] how the animals are cared for & how close our animal staff live to the animals. All we ask is [he] reports the True Facts [he] observes. If you are interested feel free to contact me."

Invitation Accepted
Unnamed Journalist, 9/13: "I received your email and would love the opportunity to meet with you for a behind the scenes tour and interview ... I am certainly willing to travel for this opportunity to “set the record straight" ... I have made a public announcement to my readers that I was invited to do an interview and tour of your circus. I think it will be a highly anticipated read ... In the meantime, please feel free to send me any documentation you would like for me to review so that I may include it in the next article. If you have any statements on the public records I referred to, I will certainly be glad to review them as well. I would also like to look over the animal care/wellness policy. Please include the date this policy was put into action. I look forward to working with you. I would love to bring a photographer with me to properly document. Please let me know is [sic] this is permissible."

Dan Baltulonis, 9/13: "[Unnamed Journalist], I appreciate you taking me up on my offer. For the policy info & "legal" issues I will have to set up an interview with our VP of Administration, Renee Storey. She has all of the updated facts & information. I will send your e-mail to Renee Storey."

Unnamed Journalist, 9/13: "... thanks for doing all of this on a Sunday. Nothing would please me more than to write a shining review for your circus. Let’s start with the performing animals' health records. I’d like to review those in the meantime."

Dan Baltulonis, 9/13: forwards Cole Bros. Circus Animal Care Policy.

Invitation Revoked
Dan Baltulonis suddenly revokes his invitation, 9/18, through the publisher of Unnamed Newspaper, rather than to Unnamed Journalist directly: "after speaking with my supervisor re: the article with [Unnamed Journalist] we feel [he] is against animals in the circus that [he] will not write an honest review ... we feel [he] will not write a fair & balanced piece ... You can contact Renee Storey, VP of Adm."

And thus a third interview with Cole Bros. Circus personnel is offered then retracted.

What My Story Has Become
I can't write a positive story on the Cole Bros. Circus because there's nothing positive to report. Their own words via emails tell more truth than I likely could have gleaned from a public interview anyway.

How awkward that Renee Storey, Vice President of Administration of the Cole Bros. Circus describes her and Cole Bros. staff actions perfectly in her insults aimed at those "opposed to the use of animals (in circuses)." How interesting that Craig Snedikel, Fire Marshal of the Township of North Brunswick, felt comfortable enough with Cole Bros. Circus staff to reveal that he was seeking information to "shut these people up." Who are “these people”? His community members? Is he seeking ways to shut his community up? Anyone reading this should be insulted—whether they are opposed to animals in circuses or not.

I tried to write a story presenting opposing viewpoints on the use of elephants in circuses. Instead I wrote an article on transparency evasion and social pacification. As a writer, I'm not evaded. As a human, I'm not pacified. Rather, a frustrating revelation like this enlivens me to action.

I have the resources at my fingertips to discover truths that mainstream newspapers won't publish. I am empowered by my inner voice that knows how to cut through the shit and read the perspective of the journalist rather than the words. I am inspired by other writers, reporters, bloggers and tweeters who use their pens and keyboards as tools to express the unpublished point of view in this new age.

Let’s get these articles to the people who need to read them. This is our time to stand up and forever change the stories we tell.

Go to Circus Elephants, Part 1: Seeing With Newly Informed Eyes

Help the Earth, Spread the Word: Share this article with family and friends by clicking on the "Email This" or "Share This" links below right.

Additional resources:
Eco-Adventure Travel: Seven Reasons Never to Ride an Elephant
Eco-Adventure Travel: Six Things to Do with Elephants Instead of Riding Them
Why Mother Nature Loves a Vegan
Questioning the Sacred Cow of Cultural Sensitivity in the Name of Animals

[Sign up to be notified each time Tonya publishes a new Clean and Green Everyday blog entry on EcoHearth.– Ed.]

[See a complete list of writing by Tonya Kay on or visit her Clean and Green Everyday blog. – Ed.]

Comments (7)add
Written by Frank William S. , October 15, 2011
Thanks so much Tonya for writing this article. I am also shocked that Cole Bros. couldn't set up an interview with you and Unnamed Journalist. Thanks for sharing these e-mails.
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Written by Tonya Kay , October 05, 2011
Don, thank you. I donate to the Performing Animal Welfare Society and have attended two of their Visit The Elephants days as well as their Annual Anniversary Gala one year - amazing organization/sanctuary really doing the outreach work!

I agree totally, GJohnson, that if we are cold in our hearts enough to cause another life form to suffer, it is that same cold space that allows the infliction of suffering on children and other victims of violence in human culture. Personally, I see a direct correlation between my value of the preciousness of life and my desire to support all forms of life. Do I not value myself or my own life if I use violence towards another? I venture a yes.

Cmyers, isn't that a shame? Why must people be dismissed as "PETA" activists for being concerned about acid being poured on the elephants we are watching in the circus? Any human being with feelings, education and consciousness would be concerned and more so, outraged. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with the Cole Bros Circus.

Suzanne, you will see in the first paragraph that Unnamed Journalist is the writer I teamed up with, whom would prefer to keep their identity secret. Since we worked together for a duration, I will respect that. You can use my name as the author of this article, however.
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Written by cmyers , October 05, 2011
"Craig J. Snedikel, Fire Marshal of the Township of North Brunswick, New Jersey, 8/19; "We are getting more than normal amounts of calls from humane society members ... in regards to the way the elephants are treated ... Can you provide information ... to shut these people up."
Sounds like Mr. Snedikel needs to hear from a few more "of us." This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Written by Suzanne Carlson , October 05, 2011
Thank you for this thought-provoking and extremely telling piece about the Cole Bros. Circus. Can you clarify what you mean by "unnamed journalist"? The article reads as if you were the person trying to get the information, so why insert this puzzling deletion? Love the article, just don't quite understand if you were corresponding with the circus or someone else that you worked with. Thanks!
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Written by cmyers , October 05, 2011
I am not a reporter nor was I seeking an interview with John Walker lll who is Cole Bros head elephant handler, but I did approach him when Cole Bros Circus was passing through the Gulf Coast States. We had a 10 minute animated conversation. I caught him off guard when I showed him a picture of Delhi the elephant he poured formaldehyde on her infected from feet and reminded him of his past USDA charges and fines.
Like you, I was accused of being a member of PETA and getting all of my misinformation from them and the Internet. I am not a member of PETA but I have read Cole Bros USDA reports, violations and court documents.
The most revealing was the elephants downcast eyes, mouth gaped open, heads hung down, swaying and the look of hopelessness on the elephant’s faces.

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Written by GJohnson , October 04, 2011
Awesome aricle! The underlying problem is that the circus industry is a dominator-culture. The world is now saying no to all forms of autocratic rule. Animal abuse is just one type of abuse. Dr. Frank Ascione just received a $1.5 million grant from the fed’l govt to further his research on the connections between animal cruelty and human abuse/violence. All forms of abuse destroy, not only individuals, but our social fabric. More research here: &
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Written by Don Carpenter , October 04, 2011
Since the circuses aren't talking, perhaps you could interview somebody who has worked with them in the past? Maybe someone with the Performing Animal Welfare Society? It would be a good excuse to cover the Elephant Grape Stomp 'n' Chomp!
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