Beacon Journal pop music writer
The Akron-bred band’s hit song has been used to sell cleaning products, yogurt and been lip-synced by a serenading unicorn and a YouTube celebrity since its 1980 release. Now it will help keep lions and tigers and other big cats in circuses from ever being whipped again.
The new wave band will donate a portion of the royalties from their most popular hit to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to help fund a campaign to encourage circuses to free their big cats, and by extension end the practice of whipping them for training and control.
The near century-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which had performances in Columbus on Thursday night, has already announced that is removing elephants from its performances starting later this year, so now activists are turning their attention to other circus animals.
Devo was enlisted by PETA senior vice president of media campaigns Dan Mathews, who has known singer/bassist Gerald Casale for about a decade.
Mathews asked Casale to direct an awareness video after he showed Casale footage of the harsh circus elephant training regimen, which included shocking the elephants with cattle prods.
Casale said he was vaguely aware of the issue, but was moved to do something after viewing the video.
“There’s so much horror in the world, it’s hard to prioritize it, and you kind of keep things in the back of your mind and then you don’t do anything about it,” he said via phone Thursday from Los Angeles.
“I hadn’t seen that footage before and all you had to do was see it and that’s the end. It’s hideous. No wonder those big elephants do those things.”
Casale said his wife, Krista Napp, has long been aware of the various big cat issues from extinction to their treatment in zoos and circuses.
“[Mathews] recently contacted us about this very issue and I presented to the band we all agreed that it was a good thing and we did it,” Casale said.
Whip It is Devo’s biggest hit, reaching the Billboard Pop Singles Top 15 in 1980, going gold and spurring its accompanying album Freedom of Choice to go platinum.
For many, it is the only Devo song they know.
“Obviously, Whip It being the song that has perennially produced the most royalty income and been the most used in TV and movies and video games, it was the obvious choice. Not to mention the irony of the title and the gallows humor there,” Casale said.
Another Akron musical icon, Chrissie Hynde, has long been known for her support of PETA and animal rights issues. She donated to PETA the fee Rush Limbaugh paid to use My City Was Gone on his radio show.