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Queer animal rights activists excluded from Mardi Gras Parade

A group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, sex/gender diverse and queer (GLBSGDQ) people who support animal rights have been denied permission to take part in this year’s Mardi Gras Parade, writes Katrina Fox.

Animal Liberation NSW (ALNSW) – a Sydney-based charity – has taken part in the Parade for the past three years, and even been nominated for most creative float. According to ALNSW communications manager Lynda Stoner, at least 80% of the 90 participants who signed up to take part in the float identify as GLBSGDQ.

ALNSW submitted its application but was told it did not fit the criteria of being queer-oriented. I contacted Mardi Gras and was told that the Parade was becoming too long and taking too long to complete and ALNSW was one of 15 or 16 groups refused entry.

Fair enough, you may say, to exclude floats that don’t appear to have any relevance to the Parade’s queer theme. I then asked if ALNSW had emphasised the GLBSGDQ aspect of the float, would it have been permitted entry. I was told that it “would certainly be more relevant”.

So ALNSW then amended its application to reflect the queer aspect of the float and resubmitted it as Sydney Queers for Animal Rights. It was still denied entry.

Mardi Gras’ official line will no doubt me for reasons the organisation outlined above. However, the question begs whether other forces are at play that influenced Parade officials’ decision to exclude a large group of GLBSGDQ people who campaign for animal rights from taking part in the Parade.

Mardi Gras events that exploit animals

Take for instance two events that Mardi Gras is promoting – both of which involve exploiting animals. Dinner at Taronga Zoo is one. This is a fundraiser for the group Australian Marriage Equality.

There are many reasons why people – including queers – should not celebrate or support animals in confinement. This article goes into detail. Even open-plan zoos such as Taronga lead to animals going insane from boredom and being kept in unnatural environments and dying from insufficient or unnatural food or disease. Why would you raise money for a ‘good cause’ such as marriage equality at a venue whose sole purpose is to imprison non-humans?

The second event is the Pink Stiletto Racing Day at Royal Randwick Racecourse. Many GLBSGDQ people see ‘going to the races’ as a fun day out with big hats and big shoes. But see this site for why horse racing is no fun for the horses, which includes stats (with references) such as 89% of the horses at Royal Randwick have ulcers; 95% of racehorses have bleeding in their lungs and 18,000 Australian ex-racehorses are sent to the ‘knackers yard’ every year. Check out this video to see the ugly truth behind horse racing and this site on the horrors of jumps racing.

Commercial concerns v grassroots activism

Is Mardi Gras deliberately excluding queer animal rights activists from taking part in the Parade this year because two of the events it is championing involve cruelty and suffering to animals? It wouldn’t be the first time that commercial concerns rode roughshod over grassroots queer activities.

As far as I’m aware, no other queer group has been refused entry into the Parade (and if they have, that begs the question of why is any queer group being excluded from an event that began as a grassroots march for freedom?).

For all Mardi Gras’ posturing about inclusivity, the fact remains that a large group of GLBSGDQ people – Sydney Queers for Animal Rights – have been left out in the cold.


0 #16 Katrina Fox 2010-02-13 20:54
@ Maurice: The issue started out as questioning why a group of queer people (who happen to animal rights activists) were excluded from this year’s float. It’s then – as others have pointed out – raised discussions about the general corporatization of Mardi Gras and queer media censorship. In relation to your query on links between AR and queer rights, I’ve been given permission to quote from a gay man who was to have to taken part in the Animal Lib float this year:
“Mardi Gras parade began as a political demonstration against injustice and should continue to be.

You ask what battery hens have to do with Mardi Gras. To me the answer is a hellva lot. Why?

Well, the people who first exposed the conditions of battery hen farming to the world were LGBT identifying or friendly and they were Australians. Some were arrested and held in custody because of their actions and some were even taking to trial.

Personally, being an animal rights activist gave me the strength to be who I am today - a gay man who runs an animal sanctuary (with lots of ex-battery hens). And the single animal rights issue which changed it all for me was the complete injustice of the battery hen.

I don't want to march up Oxford St dressed as a celebrity look-a-like, a marching boy or supporting a political party - I want to to march up Oxford St as a gay man who cares about the appalling treatment of battery hens.

I am being denied that and that is wrong. Why is it okay for a gay man to march up Oxfod St as part of the parade calling for the right to marry, to have a kid and do whatever else he wants but wrong for me to want an end to battery cages?” – Bede Carmody, owner of A Poultry Place animal sanctuary.

Yes, you’re right, there hasn’t been much discussion on what to do. However Vanessa Wagner, drag queen, has made a suggestion in the comments section under Peter Hackney’s article on the corporatisation of MG

The more people that let MG know about their dissatisfaction the better, so one thing is to call or write to MG via their website.
0 #15 Maurice Farrell 2010-02-12 23:26
So I am introduced to this debate through friends on facebook, and it concerns me that a group that has marched before was refused a space this year. There is a link that directs me here for good information exploring the issue. But below a really good article are posts from people who I presume would be wanting to work together to reverse the decision or bring greater focus to it. Please understand that myself, and the majority of our community are not with a tertiary qualification, and are not familiar with AR. If I am angry over this issue who should I call, which email address for me to register my dissatisfaction ? Or is it a chance to vent and "educate" me about how I'm not radical enough to understand? Just a selection of quotes which don't offer a way out or forward but just disparage the parade without saying why it is a bad thing-
"a bunch of dancing Kylie lookalikes are so much more important than queer animal rights activists, right?"(if I am young, new to the scene and enjoy Kylie I just don't get it? hardly an advertisement to support AR)
How many floats do we need which feature shaved muscle Marys in Speedos?(becaus e gay men with muscles is less of a stereotype than AR peeps wearing dreadlocks and tie dye-how do AR challenge the crap thrown out about them if their "allies" disparage gay men so quickly?)
"The message they're sending is it's fine to have an opinion on something provided it applies to hair, makeup, sequins, marriage and body image."(so put me offside if as a gay man I support marriage-becaus e I don't get the priority?why is it bad to put product in my hair?)
"I guess the events promoted are aiming more towards things that will be 'fun' and 'light hearted' not much attention is given to any issues and who supports them unless the issue is marriage equality or equal rights for humans.
Taking the chance for mardi gras to focus on something more serious than issues concerning ourselves appears to be out of the question."(In a world full of corporatised media/ community groups etc it really is a bit rich to post a comment to people who are unaware of the horrendous things done to animals when AR had previously marched and understood the advantage of mardi gras was because it was so large there was a really good opportunity to get the message out there to an audience that mostly gave little previous thought to AR. They were also quite happy to accept an award from the "corporate" NMG which further enhanced the profile of animal rights, I don't recall a sit in or someone pouring a tin of paint over the recipients for their " sell out" at that time.
The debate is about why the group was excluded, and I want to ensure that things like this don't happen again. But judging by the posts, it's hard for me to ascertain who wants to work together to raise the profile of AR and who is using it as a chance to vent their frustration at the community, disparage it and then throw their hands in the air saying, well I told them, but they wouldn't do what I say...
0 #14 teresa 2010-02-07 04:36
The same thing happened with the San Francisco pride parade with local grassroots organizations not getting space in the parade while international corporation with no other interest in queer other than in the revenue we provide them were given prime spots.

When organizations start catering to outside interests and to big money, the causes lose meaning and relevance. Having been to Sydney's Mardi Gras now it seemed like it was more a drag show put on for the straight folks and the gays that still haven't told mom and dad or their employers in their hometowns they are gay. It felt like more like an upper middle class white gay boy's circuit party than anything that included the entire LGBTIQ community.
0 #13 J 2010-02-06 23:00
The article mentioned that the Pink Stiletto Race Day was an official Mardi Gras event.

It is not.

New Mardi Gras, who run the parade, have no link to this event bar an ad in their season guide - it is not relevant to the organisation's refusal of a float.

If a community organisation wants to reconnect and refocus on their core ideals (promoting the GLBTSGD community) then good for them. Sometimes a parade gets too long.
0 #12 Katrina Fox 2010-02-05 23:05
@Sebastian: Thank you for raising this issue. Yes, SX did indeed do a story. The reporter who wrote it uploaded it onto the publisher (Evolution)'s website on Wednesday evening, during which time it was picked up by international queer media and the blogs. The following morning it was ordered down by the publisher. The publisher is the official media sponsor for Mardi Gras. Draw your own conclusions.

On Friday New Mardi Gras issued a press release to "all media" regarding the floats this year and its delight at the corporate sponsors. I am told that Sydney Star Observer interviewed a representative of Animal Lib. It remains to be seen this coming week which media outlets pick the story up and how they frame it. More to come here on The Scavenger too, so stay tuned!
0 #11 Sebastian 2010-02-05 22:46
Interesting that this website is the only media source in Australia reporting this story. SX did report it (online, not in print) but it disappeared from their site a few hours later. Yet overseas it's being covered by The Advocate, Pink News,, Queerty, Towleroad and all over the blogosphere. Is this just coincidence, or is NMG pressuring local media into not running this story? Why would it be covered overseas but not here in Australia where Mardi Gras is held?
0 #10 fortune 2010-02-04 16:26
The GLBSGDQ had long struggled to be recognized as beings with sense and sensibilities. The first gay pride parade changed the people's perspective on the gay community. They too are one with the people in wanting to achieve global peace, call to end violence in all forms and continously supports global actions towards a humane society. The GLBSGDQ had come a long way in getting out of their own bubble and be one with other beings towards a much better world. Its so sad that this year's organizer of the Sydney Mardi Gras looks into the whole event in a corporate manner, not as how the pioneer GLBSGQ envisioned it to be.
0 #9 Peter 2010-02-04 06:29
This just goes to show how irrelevant, authoritarian, and worst of all - BORING - Mardi Gras has become. Animal Lib has a long history of involvement with Mardi Gras and its colourful, fun floats have been highlights of several parades, even nominated for Most Creative Entry in 2007 for the 'Vegetarians Taste Better' float. But no, let's not have anything colourful or fun - or God forbid, with a message - let's hand the whole fucking thing over to whatever bank or phone company puts out the most moolah.

Mardi Gras, you should be ashamed of yourselves - the 78ers didn't march for this. They did NOT march so that a bunch of cliquey gatekeepers could turn up their noses at other queers. SHAME. ON. YOU.
0 #8 Katrina Fox 2010-02-04 05:42
@Mel: Yes, corporate non-queer floats such as ANZ, Ikea or a bunch of dancing Kylie lookalikes are so much more important than queer animal rights activists, right? Um, no. There will be queer christians, queer atheists, queers who do whatever, but not queer AR people. Not cool.
0 #7 Mel 2010-02-04 05:29
Perhaps the organisers think that there are more important issues at stake than animal rights, and gave those floats preference. I certainly would have.

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