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Firebomb PETA!

Exposing PETA and other animal rights organizations, one entry at a time.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Story of Bobby Berosini

If you are around PETA enough, you will eventually hear about Bobby Berosini. Here is PETA's version of what exactly happened, and the court battle that ensued:

"PETA distributed an undercover video showing Las Vegas entertainer Bobby Berosini beating orangutans with a metal rod. The U.S. Department of the Interior revoked Berosini's captive-bred wildlife permit, making it illegal for Berosini to buy or sell orangutans. "

Now, here is what actually happened, as recorded in this article written by Ward M. Clark:

Perhaps the most egregious incidents of an AR group's resorting to harassment, personal attack, and deceit, is found in the case of PeTA's attack on Las Vegas entertainer and orangutan trainer Bobby Berosini. Bobby Berosini is perhaps best known as the trainer of the orangutan Clyde, who starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the movie, Every Which Way But Loose. Before and after that film, Bobby and his performing orangutans have been a fixture in the Las Vegas entertainment scene.

The story of Berosini vs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is indeed a story of abuse; abuse on the part of PeTA, abuse of the legal system, intimidation, deceit, and personal attack, all unwarranted, all unfounded, all based on nothing more than hatred.

The case began in July of 1989, when Bobby Berosini was performing at Las Vegas' Stardust Hotel. One Ottavio Gesmundo, a dancer at the Stardust, videotaped Bobby Berosini before the show; the tape purported to show abuse of the oranges on the part of Mr. Berosini. However, PeTA omits several crucial details. First, let's look at a timeline of relevant events:

1987: Representatives of PeTA and the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) met in Las Vegas to discuss the use of animals in entertainment. A local PeTA activist, Linda Levine, represented PETA. PAWS was represented by its president, Pat Derby. At this meeting, Levine and Derby allegedly solicited help from Dart Anthony, then the president of the Humane Society of Southern Nevada. After learning that PeTA and PAWS wished to "create problems for entertainers who used animals in shows on the Las Vegas Strip (Bobby Berosini was mentioned by name, as were Siegfried and Roy.) Anthony, to his credit, refused.

Spring 1989: PeTA staffers decide on a fund-raising campaign based on "animals in entertainment." Bobby Berosini was named as a possible target.

It was no coincidence that, about this time, Bobby Berosini began to have problems backstage at the Stardust. Dancers, including the aforementioned Gesmundo, began to harass the orangutans. Shouting, imitating animal noises, and even waving torches used in their act, all acts intended to stir up and intimidate the orangutans.

Orangutans, while normally gentle and retiring animals, are extremely powerful -- on the order of 3-5 times as powerful as an adult male human! Bobby Berosini, after the better part of a lifetime spent working with orangutans, knows the danger signs that indicate an animal is becoming agitated; to avoid what could have been an extremely dangerous situation, he was required to keep tight control of the apes. Gesmundo's plan? Videotape Bobby getting control of the agitated orangs; the tape was to be used in PeTA's attack/fund raising effort.

In June 1989, the Stardust declined to renew Gesmundo's contract. With limited time left to accomplish his mission, Gesmundo stepped up his pace, and meanwhile was secretly videotaping the pre-show events. By this time, Gesmundo had likewise stepped up his harassment of the orangs; unsubstantiated information later brought to light implicated repeated contacts between PeTA staffers and Gesmundo, as well as some of the other dancers. During this time, Gesmundo began his "undercover" videotaping.

Indeed, it becomes apparent that PeTA was involved during the whole fiasco. The timing of the backstage harassment of the apes, the meeting between PAWS and PeTA leaders in Las Vegas, the timing of the campaign -- it truly strains credulity to claim all were coincidental.

The incident came to a head on the night of July 17, 1989, after Gesmundo was fired from the Stardust. Witnesses overheard Gesmundo talking about the "tapes" and was also heard to admit he had edited the tapes, and added his own sounds.

PeTA received Gesmundo's "tapes" the next day, and the fund-raising efforts began immediately. Both organizations, PeTA and PAWS, set up "surveillance" -- read that harassment -- of the Berosini home. Meanwhile, PeTA, anticipating legal action, agreed to pay Gesmundo's legal fees, if necessary -- they later did precisely that.

Following the initial media blitz, Bobby Berosini announced that PeTA was welcome to inspect his orangutans and their housing -- two members of the Nevada SPCA did so, and informed PeTA that there were in fact "no signs of abuse," and requested that PeTA cease their attacks. PeTA not only ignored the testimony of the SPCA members, they also refused to visit the Berosini home for themselves. One wonders why? Perhaps their allegations of abuse would be refuted, were they to see the animals themselves?

As a result of PeTA's relentless attacks, Bobby Berosini filed a defamation suit against PeTA in August of 1989. The case went to trial in 1990. The verdict? In August 1990, after 29 days of hearing evidence, the jury unanimously found PETA guilty of Defamation and Misappropriation of Name, Likeness and Character. They awarded Berosini damages of $4.2 million.

PeTA appealed; in 1994 the decision was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court. The statement of the Court claimed that PeTA "had the right to voice an opinion." PeTA was awarded costs and legal fees.

The appeal case, however, was fraught with irregularities. The decision cited statements from Mrs. Berosini that did not appear in court transcripts; the opinion cited witnesses who never testified during the trial. One of the Supreme Court judges was later found to be an active member of a local animal rights group; he was later removed from the case. However, in May of 1995 the court reaffirmed the decision, although later striking the attorney fees from the award.

Following a comprehensive inspection of the Berosini's facility and orangs, the USDA issued a report in August 1989 that there were no signs of any abuse. PeTA immediately went on the offensive, issuing a fund-raising letter with the headline, "BEROSINI BUSTED." PeTA continues to use this theme up to the time of this writing, in spite of the fact that Bobby Berosini has been cleared of all charges of abuse, and independent inspections revealed no signs of any abuse or neglect.

On June 13, 2000, I [Ward M. Clark, the author of this article] went to the PeTA World Wide Web site, and perused their published claims about the Berosini case. On that date, the PeTA Web site claimed the following:

"PETA distributed an undercover video showing Las Vegas entertainer Bobby Berosini beating orangutans with a metal rod. The U.S. Department of the Interior revoked Berosini's captive-bred wildlife permit, making it illegal for Berosini to buy or sell orangutans." [article here]

None of the above is true.

No metal rod was involved. USDA's temporary revocation of the Berosini's permit was due to a change in regulations, not due to any allegation of abuse; the permit was later renewed.

PeTA continues:

"There's a lesson here for any entertainers who still feel that beating up on animals is a way to make a living," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, "Berosini kept intelligent apes locked in solid steel boxes for four decades, he needs to go to jail, although even that won't begin to settle the score."

"The video shows a pattern of abusive treatment." [article here]

Bobby Berosini's apes do not, and never did, live in "solid steel boxes." That statement is a blatant falsehood.

The video was heavily edited; PeTA has a history of such "creative" effort.

In the interest of truth, I have done what PeTA refused to do. On April 22, 2000, I personally visited Bobby Berosini at his home in Las Vegas. Accompanying me was my wife, Dawn, who holds a degree in Animal Science from Virginia Tech. Dawn also worked for the Garden City, Kansas, municipal zoo as a keeper, with responsibility for primate care. In all modesty, between the two of us, we possess some small knowledge of animals and their behavior.

We spent roughly two and one half hours visiting with the Berosinis and their young female orangutan, Katie.

Bobby Berosini spoke passionately of his views of personal freedom, of his early escape from a Communist dictatorship, of his ideals of what America can represent as a free nation, composed of free people, of the individual rights that America stands for. How ironic that Bobby is now the victim of an organization that is an vehemently anti-freedom as any Stalinist, as fiercely repressive as any dictator could ever hope to be. What's worse, during the course of our visit, it swiftly became apparent how baseless the claims of the PeTA video were.

Far from the "solid steel boxes" that PeTA so arrogantly claims, the Berosini orangs in fact have their own large, comfortable enclosure behind the Berosini home, including a large open-air run. Katie is a gentle, charming young lady. The only behavioral cues she exhibited around Bobby Berosini were affection and a desire for attention. Katie is obviously happy, content, loved, and well cared for. PeTA could have seen this for themselves, but refused. Why?

To put it bluntly, no person with even an elementary knowledge of animals and animal behavior could make a serious claim of any sort of abuse after a visit to the Berosini home. But then& PeTA refused the offer of a tour. Why?

Bobby Berosini is a remarkable man -- an escapee from a Communist nation at an early age, the son of a multi-generation family of entertainers; his love for his animals is obvious and profound, the orangutans are, in Bobby's eyes, members of his family. PeTA couldn't be bothered to accept an invitation to the Berosini home to see this for themselves. Why?

PeTA later petitioned a court to "prove" their allegations of abuse. Their request was for a court order to have a veterinarian peel back the skin of the orangs, to reveal subcutaneous bruising. This would have very likely resulted in the deaths of the apes. Bobby Berosini was horrified; fortunately, so was the judge, stating that he was not about to "order abuse to prove abuse." The request was dismissed, "with prejudice." PeTA was oblivious. Why?

In another attempt in the courts, PeTA attempted to wrest custody of the apes from the Berosinis, and to thus remove them from the only home they've known, from their family who loves them. What would have become of the apes after that? Who knows? PeTA apparently had no plan. Just the removal of the orangs from their fabricated allegations of abuse" was enough justification for PeTA. The welfare of the orangs was of little concern. Why?


Now, if that isn't hiding behind the First Amendment to get away with slander and libel, I don't know what is. And PETA has done it again, as I will talk about in my next article. I don't believe in coincidences, folks. Especially when it comes to groups that have a history of dishonesty and propaganda.

Mr. Clark, please don't sue me.


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