For Immediate Release:
August 2, 2021
Moira Colley 202-483-7382
Myakka City, Fla. – Actor Joaquin Phoenix has learned from PETA that two bears at a roadside zoo and traveling show in Myakka City served as models for one of his films, Disney’s Brother Bear. He sent Bearadise Ranch owner Monica Welde a letter urging her to take them off the road and offering to help arrange for them to be retired from involuntary use in show business and moved to an accredited sanctuary.
“I voiced the movie’s main character, Kenai, who, as a lesson in empathy, is magically transformed to be able to see the world through bears’ eyes, and now I’m asking you to see through their eyes, too,” writes the Oscar winner. “These bears deserve better than a life on the road, where they are robbed of everything that’s natural and important to them, and if you put yourself in their place, I’m sure you’d see that, too.”
While on the road, Bearadise Ranch operators keep the bears inside transport cages in which they can barely turn around and cannot avoid being in their own waste. During performances, the animals climb ladders, carry a basketball while walking on their hind legs, pull hoops over their heads, and perform other tricks—likely because they remember what will happen to them if they don’t.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Phoenix’s letter to Welde follows.
I just learned that two of the bears used in your traveling show, Bambi and Bruno, served as models for Disney’s Brother Bear. I voiced the movie’s main character, Kenai, who, as a lesson in empathy, is magically transformed to be able to see the world through bears’ eyes, and now I’m asking you to see through their eyes, too. These bears deserve better than a life on the road, where they are robbed of everything that’s natural and important to them, and if you put yourself in their place, I’m sure you’d see that, too.
You know firsthand that bears are curious, complex animals who love to climb, dig, forage, and play. Their acute sense of smell and plate-sized paws evolved so that they could seek out mates and food across vast distances, but those carefully honed traits are wasted on the county fair circuit, where they’re relegated to transport cages when they’re not pulling hoops over their heads and carrying basketballs around in front of crowds of strangers.
Bambi and Bruno will never experience life in the wild. They’ll never get to sniff out salmon runs or traverse mountains—but that doesn’t mean their lives can’t improve. Will you please consider putting an end to the tricks and the travel and give all the bears at your facility the chance just to live like bears? If you want to do what’s truly the best thing for them, let me help you make arrangements to get them transferred to an accredited sanctuary.