Circus Elephants

How can we remain silent when speaking up can end an outdated culture of abuse? Simply not going to the circus won’t change the pattern — we must come together so we’re not just “preaching to the choir”, but reaching further out to those who may not know that their afternoon under the bigtop is a lifetime of suffering for the very animals they are there to applaud.

Behind the Illusion

CircusThailandMaybe it looks like that elephant is really painting because it wants to become the next Van Gogh, but the abusive training methods used to force young elephants to paint, ride bikes, and play darts leave them broken and battered.

What isn’t easily seen is what needs to be looked for: a knife hidden in the trainers hand, chains with nails piercing the skin, wounds and scars from the ever-present bullhooks, whips, electric prods, and stun guns. 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 breaking and training of baby elephants for a lifetime of abuse in a circus is no different whether they are bound for smaller tourist venues in Thailand or destined to perform under the bigtop, thousands of miles from home.

Circus elephants endure the same appalling “phajaan” that tourist elephants do, even when it is disguised with words such as “training” or “taming”.

IMG_1089The infants that survive their initiation into circus entertainment will spend  the rest of their lives chained or in cages, unable to take a drink when thirsty or dust themselves when itchy, lie down when tired, or choose a friend to ease the suffering. Now that’s just not entertaining at all.


Help spread the word, promoting compassionate action over aggressive confrontation.  What people are willing to pay for is what will be offered–consider changing the demand instead of fighting the institution. Circus by circus, town by town, one elephant at a time if need be, we’ll change the future for the better.  

The Show Just Can’t Go On.

Just say no to animals in shows!  Pinterest upTweet 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.

Zoo 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.

Positive Trends 

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.