Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips Interview - Founders of Animal Defenders International

 Stopping Animal Cruelty in America and World Wide


Tim reaching out to Toto, a rescue who became a symbol of animal liberation in South America

Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips are two of the most effective crusaders for animal rights in the world.  When this power couple met in their native U.K. over 26 years ago, they were both already firmly on the compassionate life path to help animals. Jan was active in the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and is still active today. Tim was publishing and editing his own weekly animal rights magazine Turning Point. They met giving speeches at demonstrations.  But it was a feral cat that brought them together:  Jan was looking for a cat trap for one behind her garden in order to get her spayed and Tim just happened to have one handy.


Tim Phillips and Jan Creamer in their L.A.headquarters

The animal kingdom has been getting a little safer ever since.  In 1990, Creamer and Phillips founded Animal Defenders International with the purpose of protecting animals all over the world, defending “the rights of species—allowing other species to share this planet with us without harming them, destroying their homes, cutting them up, or taking them into slavery.” They live to put themselves out of business, as it were.


Jan Creamer hosting recent fundraiser in Hollywood

Through their mutual background of working in the anti-vivisection area, they learned the discipline of researching until there is undeniable scientific evidence of the facts.  It is this research and evidence that finally convinces people and governments.  


Tim Phillips rescuing lion cub in Bolivia

“Most people consider themselves to be decent and feel there are certain things they mustn’t tolerate, and yet can switch themselves off to the darker side of the world – people can have a great capacity for looking the other way in order to find comfort.  When most people see our evidence they realize we are talking about things that should not be tolerated in modern society.  But it is a matter of reaching them.... We are waking up to our cruel traditions”, commented Creamer.  Phillips added that by giving people the facts and giving them a way to act, “we hope we’re an empowering group – provide people with ways to make a difference."


Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips confiscate lions from illegal keepers in Bolivia

Both Creamer and Phillips are greatly inspired by the early work of a willful old Swedish lady, Lind Af Hageby, who, with another anti-vivisectionist Leisa Schartau, in 1902 went undercover as a medical student to expose the suffering of animals in laboratories. They exposed a horrific story of a little brown dog made to suffer for two months through agonizing experiments before his death.

This exposé caused a huge outcry and led to riots in London and the erection of a statue to the dog and his fellow canines. Over the years the statue disappeared and was replaced by NAVS in the 80’s. It also was the fire beneath Creamer and Phillips future work.

Today, said Creamer, “there’s never a day when an A.D.I field officer somewhere in the world is not working inside a lab or circus or other industry collecting evidence.”


Tim Phillips address European parliament

In 1990, Creamer and Phillips formed A.D.I., and targeted the use of animals in circuses as it’s first major campaign. In 1998 it produced the most extensive underground footage of circuses ever amassed, and then dubbed it the “Ugliest Show on Earth.”  It was the first no-holds-barred expose’ of beatings of elephants, lions, tigers, chimpanzees, camels and other animals in circus after circus after circus. 


Jan Creamer nurses extremely sick foal who has collapsed during the Bolivia rescues

Over half the British animal circuses went animal free within six months of the release of the investigation. As well as going undercover in over half the British circuses, the team also went undercover securing footage in France, Spain and Austria. Three people were convicted of cruelty and Europe’s biggest supplier of zoo elephants and performing animals for the likes of Disney was closed down.


Jan Creamer with rescued horse who was going to be fed to the lions

Phillips:  Before “The Ugliest Show on Earth” expose, there had simply never been such a staggering amount of evidence about circuses hit all in one go like this before.  "This is the point where banning the use of all animals or wild animals in circuses became a real possibility.” 


Jan Creamer with lion she will rescue from being in crate for 12 years

A.D.I sent copies to animal groups all over the world.  Phillips: “Suddenly you had campaigners in places like Greece securing municipality ban after municipality ban.”  The first national bans on all wild animals in circuses were secured in Austria and Singapore.  Today there are over 20 national prohibitions.


Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, Founders of P.A.W.S., at their African elephant home in their sanctuary Ark 2000

Creamer and Phillips were phoned by Pat Derby of P.A.W.S. (the Performing Animal Welfare Society) sanctuary, who pleaded that they must come to America. A.D.I.  reps spoke at the P.A.W.S. conference in 1999 and did a media blitz with P.A.W.S – (A.D.I had in 1997 infiltrated Ringlings then tiger act supplier, Chipperfield Enterprises.)  The two groups have been great allies ever since and within a few years A.D.I. would be establishing it’s U.S. office.


Matt Rossell, ADIUSA Campaigns Manager loves his job!

In 1996, Creamer and Phillips got married and ten days later were flying to Mozambique to seize a circus! The Akef Egyptian Circus, an animal trafficking operation, had run out of money in Mozambique and the animals were starving.The newlyweds came to the rescue and faced death threats from gun runners and drug dealers, were told by a government official to “get out before sunrise or you will never leave with the animals.” They did just that and as the sun rose, they rolled across the border in South Africa, having rescued three tigers, six lions, a python, five dogs and three horses. Quite an adventurous honeymoon!


Amanda Hudson, assistant to Jan and Tim, in LA office - notice elephants in backdrop - they're everywhere!

The rescue exposed how documents were falsified to enable circuses to smuggle animals and how the circuses circumvented Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (C.I.T.E.S) rules.  A.D.I began lobbying at C.I.T.E.S meetings to plug the loophole, and in 2002, Jan and Tim flew to Santiago, Chile to attend the C.I.T.E.S Conference of Parties and it was there they secured new rules on cross border movements of animals with traveling exhibitions – still in force in over 170 countries.

I asked if it was here that they began their remarkable work closing down South America’s circus industry and they replied that it was all due to Toto the chimp.


Toto chained to a crate for 20 years

During the C.I.T.E.S meeting, a few miles down the road they discovered a grubby little circus with a chimpanzee chained in a packing crate.  They filmed and photographed immediately contacted the Ministry of Agriculture.  The circus fled but was tracked down a few months later and Toto was seized.  They won custody of him and found him a wonderful sanctuary, Chimfunshi Wildlife Sanctuary in Zambia, run by Sheila Siddle, who would take him.  They were set to fly to Zambia with Toto in tow when an appeal was put before the court.  But Toto was in the air by the time the appeal was heard, and the Judge announced Toto had left the country and closed the case!


Toto and his family in sanctuary

Toto, originally stolen from Africa had been alone, castrated, toothless and made to smoke cigarettes most of his life. When they arrived at the sanctuary in Zambia, it was the first chimp calls he had heard in two decades. All the other chimps greeted him and he could speak chimp for the first time. He was found by Siddle to be gentle and so was put with a five year old female Madonna. When they first came together they hugged like two long lost refugees. Later as the sanctuary received some rescued babies, they were put in his 14 acre enclosure as well is now surrounded by his own little family.  “Our greatest achievement was to put him back with his own kind, where he could speak his own language.  He had always paid us a lot of attention but once he was with his own kind, he didn’t need us, he lost interest in people and that’s how it should be,” relayed Creamer with tears in her eyes. “He became the symbol of the campaigns across the South American continent.”

 “The way people reacted to Toto’s story in South America, we realized there was real sympathy there and a chance for change.  A year after moving Toto we came close to a national ban in Chile and a year after that we had A.D.I. field officers embedded in the South American circus industry.

The A.D.I team stayed undercover for almost two years, going from country to country, gathering the most horrific images of suffering and physical abuse.  A.D.I. launched the evidence and their Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in 2007 and then in Brazil and Chile the next year.

Even the doors at ADIUSA are aglow with wild animals

“That investigation would change everything on that continent.” Bolivia banned all animal circuses first and has been followed by wild animals being banned in circuses in Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay, with bans moving forward in the Brazilian and Colombian Congresses.

In Bolivia, only one circus complied with the law, so A.D.I headed back, tracked down every circus, raided them (eight of them), seized and relocated all of the animals – closing down an entire animal abuse industry at a stroke.  Creamer and Phillips themselves confronted knife wielding, angry circus owners and dealt with sick and dying animals in the field.


Bob Barker about to receive an award from ADI

The support of Bob Barker enabled A.D.I to fly 29 of the lions rescued in Bolivia to the U.S.A. where they roam wonderful sanctuary homes in Colorado and California – A.D.I is committed to caring for the animals for life. A documentary is currently being prepared on this dramatic recovery.

Amanda Hudson and Matt Rossell in LA Office

The A.D.I.U.S.A headquarters is now Los Angeles and they signaled their arrival in the movie heartland with an exposé of Have Trunk Will Travel who supplied the performing elephant Tai for the movie Water for Elephants.  The sickening scenes of elephants being beaten and electric shocked during training also lead to elephant rides supplied by Have Trunk Will Travel being cancelled in Orange County, Fountain Valley and Santa Ana.


LA City Councilman Paul Koretz, head of the PAW Committee

And it is here in Los Angeles that a ban on wild animals visiting the city is being considered by the PAW committee of the Los Angeles City Council at this moment.  This would be an important ban for animals not only here, but a ban that would be felt around the world, coming from such a big center.  All who are reading this article whether in Los Angeles or around the world are encouraged to sign the petition and contact the representatives. Let your voice be heard. Please go to http://www.ad-international.org/connect/. Updates will be posted on the meeting time at City Hall and all are also encouraged to attend.


TEAPA launch in Congress

The Los Angeles ban will also further the bigger prize- T.E.A.P.A. the national ban on traveling with exotic animals for entertainment, Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act which is now in Congress and gaining supporters.  Even if it doesn’t pass the first time, Creamer and Phillips are used to pushing a bill several times through until it gains the needed support. (Few bans have been secured on the first go. Bolivia, for example, took three pieces of legislation.) You can email your member of Congress about T.E.A.P.A. here http://bitly.com/vkWC7o .

Jan Creamer at the TEAPA launch

“Victory is brought by relentless, continuous campaigns," they both agree. They are always trying fresh new approaches and have a 'great belief' in hard work. "You get knocked down, you get up again, you keep going, that’s how laws and society are changed,” Creamer says with conviction.

Regarding the bad behavior of our own species in relation to other species, Creamer concludes, “We share our home. It’s not only ours. If we carry on arrogantly believing this planet is just here for our convenience when in fact all of us are inter-connected. We have need of other species, plants and animals for our survivals.  It’s inevitable we need to re-assess our relationship with other species.”

Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips hugged by fan Georja Umano


Georja Umano is an actor and animal advocate.











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