Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips, the co-founders of Animal Defenders International (ADI), two fearless, compassionate individuals who fight for those who cannot fight for themselves: the abused and neglected animals of the world.
Creamer and Phillips are a tenacious husband-and-wife team committed to ADI, an organization that champions for oppressed animals across the globe. The renowned group stops animal abuse, rescues animals in distress, and secures legislation that protects animals from harm in laboratories, farms, and the entertainment industry. They use false identities, hidden cameras, elaborate cover stories, and covert surveillance techniques to capture footage in circuses, slaughterhouses, and laboratories.
The two leaders have endured death threats and violent attacks in their mission to take hurt animals away from people who do not want to give them up. The couple publishes technical reports, educates communities, and drafts legislation documents for animals worldwide, including bans on animal circuses in 20 countries and a ban on cosmetics testing on animals in Europe.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jan Creamer last week. She is courageous and a true advocate for animals, as well as our dependence on animals within our eco-system and protecting their existence within forests around the globe.
To be honest, I didn’t realize the depth of abuse that animals experience at the hands of a human being. I watched the preview of the movie, Lion Ark and I was like WOW.
Creamer: It’s good that we brought something to you. The movie is very exciting. This is our first actual feature and we’re getting close to completion. Thanks and we are looking forward to the launch.
You had a screening of Lion Ark in Hollywood just recently? What was the response?
Creamer: In October, we had a screening of just sections of the movie. It was a party at a private home and we had a fundraiser. Everyone really enjoyed it. The first full screening is to come.
Will the full screening be in the US?
Creamer: Yes, I think we’ll do LA first and then we’ll be hitting some of the festivals.
Do you think you’ll be looking at the Toronto Film Festival?
Creamer: Yes, it is on our list.
What disturbed me the most was how foie gras is made and the abuse to the ducks. I can’t understand how these people can take on this inhumane process to put foie gras on our tables.
Creamer: I think that most of the people who eat foie gras or buy it in restaurants close their minds to the truth. They either don’t know about it or they vaguely know that something isn’t quite right about it. But they haven’t really looked at it. Any normal person with compassion can’t do anything but be horrified when you see the cost of these animals. No one wants to cause that kind of suffering. It’s kind of deliberate cruelty. For something that which really, by comparison, is not so important and you can have other things that are nice to eat.
It just ripped me apart. The abuse to the animals is forced. I found it horrifying that the ducks know what is was coming!
I’ve seen it and filmed it. The thought of someone pushing a tube down someone’s throat and forcing food into their stomach is so horrific. It just makes you shiver. It’s disgusting. As well, the ducks know it’s coming. People forget that if an animal is repeatedly abused, they know what’s coming. They are not stupid. Foie Gras is one of those horrific things that makes you feel ashamed.
Another thing that intrigued me about you is that your career was that of a graphic designer. How did you end up in Animal Protection?
Creamer: There are times in our lives where we have these life changing moments. I was moving along in my career. What changed it for me was that there was an expose by a newspaper in London. One of the Amish newspapers sent a reporter in under cover in a laboratory. They filmed and photographed beagle dogs and puppies being forced to smoke cigarettes. They masks over their faces and put cigarettes in them where the dogs had no other option but to smoke. It was so horrendous, people were outraged. Why force dogs to smoke cigarettes when we as humans choose to smoke? Those dog smoking experiments were stopped.
Shortly after that was in the news, I was walking down the local high street and someone gave me leaflet about animal experiments. It was the National Anti-Vivisection Society of the UK. NAVS was the first anti-vivisectional organization founded by a lady in 1875. It taught me about animal experiments, what happened to them, and the fact that we didn’t need to do that. There are alternatives. Even then 30 years ago, they were developing alternatives. So I joined and it was one of those life changing moments. I was supporter for a few years and discovered that this was so much more important. I moved over to moving full time and became their magazine editor for a few years and then became their chief executive. It’s been quite a journey. It’s a very rewarding life. If you want to really know that you can make a difference a cause like this, campaigning against animals who can’t speak for themselves. There so much horror in the world for animals. When you think about it, this is their planet too. We share the planet with them and we are not very good neighbours are we? There is so much that they have to put up with.
Tell me a little about the joys and the sadness of being an animal activist?
Creamer: There’s been a lot of sadness, but then there is the joy when laws get changed or when you manage to rescue animals. The Lion Ark movie is all about that. It has a happy ending. I think that’s one of the key things that we feel is important about this movie. It tells the story of the uncover investigations, we sent out people to work in circuses for two years around around South America. After two years, we released our findings from each countries, we had a series of campaigns, educated the public, and started talking to legislators. Boliva was the first country to actually pass a law banning the use of animals in travelling circuses. They banned all animals because they didn’t like they way they were treating the horses and dogs as well.
When you get to the small countries, we ask what do you do with the animals? Boliva gave them a year to dispose of the animals. Eight circuses defied the law and their animals had to be seized. Boliva’s wildlife department is tiny and we helped with the seizes and we re-homed the animals. That’s really the story of Lion ark. We moved twenty-nine lions to the US, where four went to California and then twenty-five, in one go, to Colorado. They are all very happy now. It’s a good documentary with a happy ending because we felt we had to show how the suffering of animals, in travelling circuses, is horrific.
There is something you can do yourself like not attend the travelling circus, and then when a country makes a change, the animals can be saved and living happy and fulfilling lives.
Where do you see ADI in ten years?
Creamer: I think our real hope for ADI for us to really to continue to make a difference to animals around the world. We want to be most effective that we can be. We want to save and rescue animals. We want educate people and change minds and hearts. Change the minds of governments. We have managed to get over twenty national bans around the world on the use of animals in travelling circuses; either all animals or wild animals. We often get this by getting local bans in towns and cities first and then we move on to a national ban.
We campaigned in Europe, which is 27 countries, about the use of wild corp primates in laboratories. These are very intelligent animals who suffer extremely when they are caught and put into a laboratory. They have fears and emotions in ways that we do. One of the things that we did point out, the trade in wild corp primates just isn’t sustainable. You can’t keep going around the world and emptying whole forests of animals and expecting them to able to breed to replenish that. What’s happening is that the whole areas of forests are losing their wild primates and they are a very important part of the ecological cycle. We want we manage to persuade to the European parliament the damage that was eventually going to do to us. They have ended the use of wild corp primates in laboratories in Europe. We want to persuade governments of arguments like that, giving them the real facts and consequences of we behave towards other species.
How can people like myself support your organization?
Creamer: If you can get to the website, that’s the very first thing people can do. www.ad-international.org. We are also on Facebook and Twitter. In the United States, people can get us on the website or call us at 323-935-2234 and in London it’s 820-7630-3340. On the website, you can click on ADI USA, ADI UK and Europe, and ADI South America will lead you to each of our offices, explains the campaigns and how to help.