Elephants and the Circus

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 11, 2014

Dear Editor:
    Wild elephants coexist with human beings mostly out of necessity and primarily for human profit. Prior to purchase, many of our pets experience restrictive confinement in cages and pens. Once bought, they generally transition into a home that affords them a greater range of movement, although many pets still end up miserable in tiny quarters. Many consider such tight pet enclosures cruel. Clearly, financial interests often dictate the size of animals’ enclosures. The circus is a profit-driven endeavor that uses tight enclosures for elephants and employs painful techniques that deprive them of free movement.
    Baby elephants experience horrible privations and restrictive disciplinary techniques to make them perform better for ticket holders. Samuel Haddock, a former elephant trainer at Ringling Bros. Circus, made a notarized declaration about how elephant calves were “forcibly separated from their mother.” He outlines how restrictive training sessions were and how handlers “tugged on ropes to make babies lie down, … salute, do headstands.” During these sessions, elephants’ basic freedom of movement is deprived, not to mention their freedom to reunite with their mothers. It is no wonder that elephants exhibit neurotic behaviors such as repetitive head bobbing and swaying in captivity. Ironically, such behaviors may seem endearing to the uninitiated spectator at a circus.
    Animals are nonprofit beings with the right to enjoy dignified, natural lives. Ringling Bros. makes almost no attempt to accommodate elephants who need intricate social interactions in their own expansive environment. Therefore, I wholeheartedly refuse to support animal exploitation for profit, even if, as Ringling claims, they would never harm elephants because “these things are worth a tremendous amount of money. They’re irreplaceable.” Financially irreplaceable or not, the circus is neither an elephant’s place nor mine. Let’s make Austin an ethical city in regards to elephants, as well as all animals.
Daniel Wesley
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