Animal Welfare Groups Plan Protest Against Westside Bar’s Turtle Racing

Animal Welfare Groups Plan Protest Against Westside Bar’s Turtle Racing

Brennan’s Turtle Racing Began 49 Years Ago When Then-Owner Ab Lawrence Started the Tradition

By Zach Armstrong

Among its numerous entertainment events and games, bi-weekly turtle racing has been the specialty at Brennan’s Irish Pub since 1975. On Thursday, March 21, while patrons inside the old school Marina del Rey bar cheer for whichever turtle they’ve placed bets on, animal welfare groups will be standing outside to voice their opposition.   

In Defense of Animals, Los Angeles for Animals and the Los Angeles Animal Defense League plan to bring pamphlets, signs, megaphones and approximately 50 protestors to the Westside bar demanding an end to what they describe as a “cruel and wrong idea that it’s acceptable to use animals for entertainment.”

Brennan’s did not immediately respond to inquiry from Mirror Media Group.

Pressure from the nonprofits began in November when IDA says an expert assessment described the racing to be “inhumane” for the reptilian animals. Thus, evoking stress and fear in them. During a race, wherein a crowd watches which of five turtles makes it out of the ring first, the animals endure rowdy screams and being hoisted in the air. 

According to the bar’s website, there are three rules in place to ensure safety for the racing turtles: no pointing, no booing and only specially trained turtle wranglers are allowed to touch them. But for groups like IDA, these provisions do little to negate the traumatization the animals can be subjected to.

After several requests to meet with ownership were sent to Brennan’s, the establishment briefly responded once that the turtles were safe and it would continue the event, said IDA volunteer Alexandra Paul. Remaining steadfast, IDA then issued an action alert and created an online form in January for the public to express their shared concern by signing and sending to Brennan’s. According to IDA’s website, over 11,000 signatures signed the form and were sent to the bar. 

All these efforts have burgeoned into Thursday’s planned protests after, according to Paul, Brennan’s has provided no further response and the racing continues.

“Brennan’s itself calls turtle racing the ‘world’s stupidest sport,’ but has been organizing these races for nearly half a century,” read a statement from Paul, who is also a former Baywatch actress. “It is time for Brennan’s to get smart and stop this cruel practice, which turtle experts agree is inhumane. There are many other forms of entertainment to offer that don’t involve harming animals.”

Brennan’s turtle racing began 49 years ago when then-owner Ab Lawrence started the tradition, according to its website. Every first and third Thursday, customers gamble on the winner by paying for a ticket and placing their name in a turtle’s hat. A name is pulled from the victor’s hat to announce which patron wins a prize from a prize wheel. All proceeds from the race go to charity, the website states.

In regard to how IDA feels about patrons who attend the event, Paul said “It’s important not to support an event where animals are being exploited. They can go to Brennan’s any other night, but please don’t go on those Thursdays when turtle races happen. They can call the bar to say they’re happy to come back whenever something else fun is happening like karaoke or trivia.”

Animal Welfare Groups Plan Protest Against Westside Bar’s Turtle Racing

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