This latest protest was sparked by an undercover sting operation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A PETA activist went undercover and got a job at the roadside bear zoo where tourists pay to view bears in concrete pits. He wore a hidden camera to capture footage of its operations and conversations of employees.
PETA reportedly captured offhand, racist comments made by the park’s employees toward Native Americans, trash talk about a federal zoo inspector behind her back and poor living conditions for the bears.
“There’s so much in that video, I don’t know what people can say,” PETA spokesperson Dan Carron said. “I think the people of the community don’t want that in their community.”
Carron hoped tribal government would reverse their previous stance and exercise their authority to shut the bear zoo down due to the allegedly damning video footage.
PETA has been campaigning against the Cherokee bear zoo for several years. Chief Saunooke’s has also gotten a slew of violations from federal animal welfare inspectors. The most recent round of violations last fall came with a decree to make changes or risk being shut down.
Near the end of the protest, which attracted 25 or so demonstrators from several states in the region, Cherokee Tribal Police officers arrived at the scene. Officers told the protestors they couldn’t protest without prior permission. The protestors explained their demonstration would be wrapping up within 15 minutes anyway, so officers let them finish.
The video from the undercover investigation can be found at the home page www.peta.org.