Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
These days, in addition to her busy voice over work, she spends her extra time lending her voice to animal causes – writing and educating the public about spaying and neutering, and publicly protesting the inhumane treatment of animals, especially in circuses.
“I follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. King and go to protests to educate the public to the truth behind what their money is buying,” Pamelyn explains. “At the circus their money is buying cruelty, torture, frustration and boredom to the animals that are trucked from city to city to do stupid and unnatural tricks for a human’s amusement. I along with my fellow activists, hold signs that have pictures of elephants in shackles, tigers in cages too small for them to even turn around, bears muzzled and riding on the backs of horses, etc. Each picture has a caption in English and Spanish which says things like, “Circuses. You Choose, They Can’t” or “Modern Day Slavery” or “Would God Want His Animals in Chains?” or “Circuses Are Cruel To Animals”. We also hand out leaflets.”
In August, 1999, Pamelyn brought a “bullhook” to a protest at Pierce College where Circus Vargas was taking place. A bullhook is a wooden rod approximately three feet long with a sharp metal hook at one end. Trainers jab the hook into the sensitive skin of the elephant’s mouth, underarms, and rectal area to keep the animals fearful and manageable. A police officer arriving on the scene confiscated the bullhook she was using that had been placed next to photographs displaying circus elephants abused by bullhooks.
Pamelyn was subsequently arrested based on an ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to carry a staff or rod greater than 1½ inches in diameter while engaging in protest. It’s a law that dates back to the civil rights era enacted to protect police from overly aggressive demonstrators.
Says Pamelyn, “Chip Arthur, the elephant trainer, was using the exact same bullhook to hit Lisa, a pregnant elephant with Circus Vargas, not 100 feet away from where they arrested me. But nothing happened to Chip Arthur.”
At the time of her arrest she said that even if she goes to jail she’s still luckier than the circus elephants. “I am obviously uncomfortable and anxious about going to jail, but it’s nothing compared to what animals in a circus must endure. At least I will eventually get out.”
In “The Circus Is In Town,” an essay she wrote that’s on her website, www.pamelynferdin.com, Pam details some of the abuses circus elephants endure. “Circuses typically confine these animals with a pair of heavy leg chains front and rear, diagonally opposite. An elephant thus chained cannot even turn in a circle. It’s not unusual for these animals to live in double leg chains all night and day except during performances and when they are on public “display”. Some “lucky” elephants get to spend time in a small, electrified corral, but even those elephants may spend 10 hours or more a day in double leg chains. Aggressive male elephants may have their head and trunk movements restrained with additional chains.”
She also writes that “the opportunity to dominate the large land mammals like elephants and tigers seems to attract violent behavior. One technique used to dominate an elephant is to wet him down and then repeatedly administer 110-volt shocks to send the animal to its knees. Not only does this torture and terrify the animal, it may prematurely age its brain.”
Pam does not limit her protests to just elephants and circuses. Prior to the Pierce College incident, she’d been arrested six other times. “I engaged in Civil Disobedience several times by sitting down in front of stores that sell the skins of tortured, mutilated animals who have been gassed, clubbed and anally electrocuted for the cruel “fur trade.” I was also arrested for following hunters while they were trying to kill deer, asking them to stop killing the innocent animal. The hunter did kill a deer right in front of me, and she blinked and jerked and tried to grasp her last breath before she died. Then, as he pulled her along behind him with a rope in the snow, the snow underneath her turned bright red from the blood. Her little baby fawn came out of the woods and tried to go up to his mother, but the hunter shoed the baby away. I’m sure the baby died as well, because he was too young to survive on his own.”
As a child actor, life wasn’t all peaches and cream for the young star. “I had a really lousy time in school. I didn't have any friends, hardly at all my own age. So basically I was alone. But I always seemed to have some kind of “companion animal friend.” I don’t call them “Pets” anymore. My companions were hamsters, rats, mice, cats, rescued dogs, etc. They were a lot nicer, more moral, kinder and gentler than any person I knew.”
So what turned her into an activist? Pamelyn says it was “my experience at the animal shelter, seeing the dogs lined up to be killed, with their legs shaking, that jolted me into getting off my butt. I started to put all my time into helping end the holocaust of wonderful healthy cats, dogs, puppies and kittens murdered every year in US shelters. After I got involved in helping cats and dogs, I began to widen my circle of compassion to include elephants, tigers, cows, chickens and fish, etc.”
As a child Pam saw herself as a really nice, good girl. “I never went through a period of rebellion, like a lot of kids do. Never, ever got into drugs. I was just your REALLY goodie, two shoes! And I still am!!! I don’t drink or smoke and I try and be nice to everyone and smile a lot! But, when it comes down to murdering innocent animals for someone’s taste preference, then I think that anyone who doesn’t take a stand and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, not only lacks character, but lacks true nobility.”
Pamelyn’s early life as a child actor also gave her a unique perspective on using animals in entertainment. “I just think it’s wrong to have animals in entertainment. Animals are forced, basically, to entertain, and I was too. I was kind of forced into acting. I just feel that unless you love doing something, you shouldn’t be forced just because you’re weaker than other people! Making animals perform is crueler than putting a child into the acting business when she isn’t interested, because animals in entertainment are forced and beaten into doing unnatural, ridiculous acts for a person’s momentary amusement. It’s more analogous to the worst kind of slavery than to my being put into the acting business at the age of four.”
Instead of continuing with acting, Pamelyn became a nurse. But she sees the value of both careers. “I really feel that if I had stayed in acting, I could have done a lot more for the animals. The media is so profound and it reaches so many people, that if I were still an actress and well known, I would be doing a lot more. I’d want to be involved with films and television shows regarding the abuses of laboratory animals and slaughterhouses. But as a nurse I go out and teach people that, in order to exist, to live and be healthy, you don’t need to eat the flesh of animals. I am a representative for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This is a group of physicians, nurses, dieticians and scientists who educate the public on how to prevent diseases by eating a low fat vegetarian (vegan) diet. They also explain why vivisection (experimenting on animals) is not only unethical, but scientifically fraudulent. They have a great website at www.pcrm.org.”
Although she’s not as well known as she was as a child, Pamelyn has been doing a lot of voice-over work. She plays Shelly Kelly, one of the main characters on Detention, a morning show for kids, and she also does various voice-over commercials. “Doing voice-overs gives me the time off I need to do what I love doing best- educating the public to the plight of the animals. I am also available to speak to groups (in schools, lecture halls, libraries, homes, etc.) about my tv career and how people can help prevent the torture and suffering of the animals with whom we share this planet. Anyone interested in getting in touch with me is invited to contact me at my web site,www.pamelynferdin.com.”
These days Pamelyn shares her home with her husband and rescue dogs. “My largest dog, a purebred Shepherd, was kicked down the stairs by her “owner” after he beat up his girl friend. The dog was a puppy and couldn’t walk because of the spinal cord injury. She is now walking and even running. The other three were rescued from shelters before they were going to be killed. I also have a “foster dog”. I go to the shelters, rescue a dog, put an ad in the paper and try to find it a safe and loving home. When I do, I go back and save another one.”
Pamelyn Ferdin’s life experiences with her own animals and the ones she works to protect have led her to conclude that “HUMAN animals are not the smartest, best, most noble or the kindest animals on the planet. We just THINK we are! We have to respect and live in harmony with the other animals with whom we share the planet. We have no right to eat them, wear them or exploit them. Non human animals are living, sentient beings who are unique individuals with their own worth, their own emotions, their own families, and yes, their own RIGHTS!”
As Pamelyn writes in her essay, “If we want this world to be a more peaceful and less violent place; if we want to start teaching young children to have compassion and respect for those beings with whom we share the planet yet who are different from us, then we must not take them to places that show these magnificent animals doing stupid and unnatural tricks in ridiculous costumes. This teaches nothing to our children about these animals’ lives or who they truly are and should be. Please teach your children compassion, not cruelty, and choose circuses that have the jugglers, clowns, cotton candy and acrobats, but do not contain the animal suffering of those circuses who use animals.”
(For more information about documented abuses of circus animals in recent years, as well as a list of humane circuses, visit www.circuses.com.)
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
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