As children we sometimes become unwilling participants in the abuse of animals and in many cases it is not even the fault of the person who made us partake in the event. You cannot place blame on someone if they were not presented with the correct facts. Instead we become mesmerized by the bright neon lights and the smell of buttered popcorn, cotton candy and peanuts. For many of us going to the circus was one of the first times we were able to see wild animals up close and personal and for our parents walking through the circus tent was a nostalgic experience.
When it comes down to it, the circus creates an illusion of a fun carefree place but what we don’t notice are the sores on the elephants body from being repeatedly beat with a bullhook.
Recently Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has teamed up with PETA to fight against elephant abuse by writing a letter to members of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners urging them to support a proposal that would protect elephants in circuses by banning the use of bullhooks in the county.
In his letter Gonzalez writes:
As you may know, bullhooks are heavy rods with a sharp metal hook and spike on one end. The device is a standard tool that circuses use to force elephants to perform difficult and confusing tricks. Elephants have very sensitive skins, and bullhooks cause these gentle giants a great deal of pain and suffering. Their use also leads to injuries and health conditions such as puncture wounds and abscesses. This archaic device has no place in a civilized society that values animals, as my family and I do.Most people are unaware that these animals are incredibly intelligent. Elephants are very social creatures that feel pain, anger, have grieving rituals and feel joy. According to African Wildlife Foundation ( AFW), “Elephants demonstrate concern for members of their families they take care of weak or injured members and appear to grieve over a dead companion.”
My friends at PETA have gathered irrefutable evidence showing the persistent, entrenched abuse of elephants who are violently trained with bullhooks, starting when they are babies. For example, a recent undercover investigation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—an investigation that spanned several months and took place in many states—revealed that elephants were struck repeatedly with bullhooks in order to intimidate them and remind them that they need to do as they're told or suffer immensely painful consequences. And people everywhere were outraged to see photos of baby elephants at Ringling's training compound being torn from their mothers, tied down by all four legs, slammed to the ground, and gouged with bullhooks. A longtime elephant trainer with the Carson & Barnes Circus—one of the elephant suppliers for UniverSoul Circus—was caught on video viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook and instructing others to sink bullhooks into elephants' flesh and twist them until the animals screamed in pain.
Elephants have an excellent memory and it has been proven time and time again that these astute animals can recall events such as abuse. According to the Humane Society, “There is no predicting when elephants will respond aggressively to harsh treatment or when a seemingly innocuous incident will set them on a fearful rampage. With their large size, even a small misstep can be deadly.” This was the case in August 2010 when a Shriners circus elephant became startled and tossed its trainer several feet, the trainer died a result of severe injuries suffered from the event.
With all the research that has been done on these intelligent gentle giants, why is it still largely accepted or turned a blind eye to when it comes to beating these animals and parading them around in circuses? Really is the entertainment value worth it?
Photo credit: PETA