Elephants as Entertainment
How can we remain silent when speaking up can end an outdated culture of abuse?
Behind the illusion, the bull hook hanging on her ear is a cruel reminder to her of how she will suffer if she makes a mistake.
Maybe it looks like an elephant is choosing to paint because she wants to become the next Van Gogh, but the abusive training methods used to force young elephants to paint, ride bikes, and play darts leaves them broken and battered. What isn’t easily seen is what needs to be looked for: a knife or nails hidden in the trainer‘s hand, chains piercing the skin hidden under bright costumes, wounds and scars from bullhooks, whips, electric prods, stun guns, and the conditions they endure before and after the show, hidden from your eyes. For the little ones that survive the initial abusive training, their world doesn’t get any better once they are part of the act. The infants that survive their initiation into circus entertainment will spend the rest of their lives separated from their family and often separated from any others of their own kind, chained or in cages, unable to take a drink when thirsty or dust themselves when itchy, or choose a friend to ease the suffering. Now that’s just not entertaining at all.
The Show Can’t Go On
Just say no to animals in shows! Pinterest up, Tweet out, OpEd in, Yelp it down, and share it round and round again. Plan a protest, send sponsors the message to stop supporting circuses that use animals, connect with your city/state to share the truth about the cruelest show on earth. Call your City Council, Mayor, Governor and Senators and Congress persons. Talk about it on Facebook, at dinner, or on TripAdvisor.
We can change this, but people have to know the truth about it first. Tell the story however you tell it best, and one day the spell will be broken and the elephants who suffer for a lifetime to paint, ride bikes, and throw darts can finally get a chance to just be elephants.
If we accept zoos as they currently exist, what is it that we are really conserving? And what education are we really supporting? When keeping elephants in such unnatural conditions and intense confinement for their entire lives is promoted as conservation and education, well, it’s time for a paradigm change.
Wild Elephants are the Best Conservationists
Not only are the physical, psychological and social needs of elephants undeniably complex, their status as a Keystone Species underlies the importance of having them exist in the wild for the sole purpose of being who they are and doing what they do, without interference. Their confinement in most zoos is but a fraction of their natural environment and is deeply debilitating on every level, and not just to the elephant, but also to the wild lands that require free-roaming asian elephants to bring about environmental balance.
What are we really teaching?
What do our children truly learn when they go to a zoo? If we imply that the elephant they are looking at is anything close to what an elephant is in the wild, we create an even greater disconnect between them and the wonder of wild elephant families. Promoting the outdated idea that it is not only acceptable but necessary to confine elephants in order to learn about them is simply archaic and cruel.
Zoos all over the world are recognizing that one of the world’s most familial animals (and the largest land mammal on earth) simply cannot be confined within a standard zoo and still thrive. We have a long way to go, but many zoos and circuses have already closed their elephant exhibits, with several others preparing to do so, and good sanctuaries are a great way to support the change. Consistently support the changes you want to see for elephants with your voice, your actions, and your dollar and one day we’ll know we saved the elephants for their own sake, instead of confining them for ours.
What We Do About It
Since 2014 we’ve held peaceful protests at stationary and traveling circus venues, given educational talks in libraries and schools, addressed booking agencies and hoteliers, and testified repeatedly at City Counsel meetings. Across social media platforms we spread the message of our Humane Tourism campaign “#NotOnMyBucketList”, with people all over the world joining hands to change the future for captive elephants. Although there is still a very long way to go, there’s no doubt about it—times are changing! People are Speaking Out and Rising Up for Elephants! Thank you for being a part of that Action for Compassion!