Ostrich Festival in Chandler, Arizona (photo: afterglow-spins.livejournal.com)
On March 11-13, 2016, the Chandler Arizona Chamber of Commerce sponsored its annual Ostrich Festival. A fundraiser begun in 1989, the festival hires an
exotic animal supplier to provide ostriches, emus, camels and zebras to be ridden rodeo-style. The Chamber describes the ostrich races: “Professional
riders take the reins of a chariot or ride the large birds bareback around a race track.” The prospect of a chariot wreckage or other upset is part
of the “unpredictable” fun of the races.
Tension between Chandler’s evolving high-tech industry and the city’s vanishing rural past was a theme of this year’s Arizona Republic coverage and Chamber of Commerce pronouncements. The once small community southeast of Phoenix is today “more of a mecca
for information technology corporations than for farmers of large birds,” the Arizona Republic reported echoing the Chamber’s effort
to reconcile past and present in a festival that its president, Terri Kimble, calls an event of “family fun and entertainment.”
This year’s festival featured many new animal-free attractions including a racing game of motorized, remote-controlled cars and a Batman and Superman
Show “about bullying,” presumably showing children that real heroes do not act like bullies. Yet the ostrich races and other animal attractions
are all about bullying and ridiculing captive birds and other animals “trained” to perform dangerous, demeaning and unnatural acts.
Beneath all the fluff about “family fun and laughter” a spirit of malice and meanness informs these performances, illustrating what Jim Mason calls in his book, An Unnatural Order, “Rituals of Spectacular Humiliation.” Such rituals, he writes, are designed to “reinforce
myths of animal stupidity, inferiority, and willingness to submit to human domination by reducing animals to toys and clowns.”
“On one occasion I saw and sketched a female tending her hatchlings. The young will get careful attention from both male and female adults before they develop the necessary independence to be on the move with the family group.”
— John Seerey-Lester
Ostriches and emus are the oldest living birds on earth. In their natural habitats, these fleet-footed nomads, designed by 90 million years of evolution to
roam vast desert spaces and survey the land with their large brilliant eyes in all directions at once, are stately, dignified birds devoted to their
families. The ostrich festival strips them of their dignity, puts them in danger, and makes fun of them. Ostriches and emus are not suited by temperament
or anatomy to pull chariots and be ridden by “cowboys.” Their large fragile eyes, long necks and legs are easily injured.
Once said to draw 250,000 visitors, the Ostrich Festival now attracts about 100,000 people, according to the Chamber of Commerce. An Arizona activist told
UPC in March, “The event does raise a great deal of money, yet they came up with new events this year, so they need to take the high road and create
more events and get out of the animal abuse entertainment business.”
Urge the Chandler Chamber of Commerce to eliminate the ostrich races from the 2017 festival. Urge them to make the festival a positive event that respects
the life and feelings of all creatures. Just as Chandler’s evolution to a high tech center has benefited the town financially, so the Ostrich
Festival can evolve to a lucrative attraction in which ostrich races and their like are relegated to a past that no longer reflects the evolving
consciousness of today’s society toward animals. Respectfully request a written reply to your concerns.
Terri Kimble, President/CEO
Chandler Chamber of Commerce
25 S. Arizona Place, Suite 201
Chandler, AZ 85225
Nick Debus, Public Policy & Government Relations:
Sarah Miranda, Special Events & Programs
Lee Hines, Accounting & Finance
Michael Beagle, Business Development
Mike Wells, Vice President of Business Development
Paulette Pacioni, Marketing & Communications
Brenda Whipple, Business Development
Barbara Caravella, Business Development
Yvonne Torres, Administrative Assistant
Mary Ann Przybylski, Director of Special Events & Programs, and Sponsorships
Sarah Bruner, Business Development
You can post a message to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce through their website by clicking on Contact Us at http://www.chandlerchamber.com.
You can also reach them through their Facebook and Twitter pages. Facebook:
All letters, phone calls and Internet messages to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce should be polite, caring, respectful and concerned. Our goal is to
make the world a more just, enlightened, and compassionate place.
For more information, please visit our Ostriches & Emus Webpage.