- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 25 March 2015
If you are on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and see a picture of an elephant, I can almost guarantee you it is because of me. If we’re ‘friends’ or ‘followers,’ you must know I have been overly obsessed with elephants and the symbolization they embody. That’s why when I heard about The Ringling Brothers deciding to phase the elephants out of “The Greatest Show On Earth,” I was insanely thrilled.
I read up on the articles and could not believe how many mixed reviews on the decision. Decades of treating an endangered species as actual show animals, leaving them in cages, and shipping them off from location to location, is finally coming to an end and people are actually complaining?
One-hundred and forty-five years of this to be exact. It doesn’t exactly add up. Reading some of the negative comments had me a little skeptical as well, and really got me thinking. Except, unlike those seemingly upset and aggravated over the fact they will no longer see the elephants parading around at the circus, I am pretty upset and aggravated at The Ringling Brothers.
I cannot lie: the circus is part of the reason I have loved elephants since I was young. They look absolutely adorable with their headpieces on and the women who accompany them look like they are having a legitimately amazing time. I am fully aware that elephants are some of the smartest animals known to man. They can even identify different languages. For a long time, I believed that this intelligence was the sole reason these magnificent elephants were able to put on such amazing performances.
“It has to be because they’re smart, I know that’s the reason,” a young, naïve me used to say.
But let’s face the facts: how does one actually train an elephant to sit upright on a stool, stand on top of a that same tiny stool and kick it’s one legs while supporting itself on the stand with the other? Is there a way to do this without some type of cruelty? The answer is no. I looked into this to find the cold hard facts.
According to Ringling Bros. website, 22 elephant calves have been born at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation located in Florida. The site’s youngest elephant isnamed Mike, who turns two this August, while the oldest is Mysore at 69.
However, after researching for myself, I have learned this is not the case for a majority of their elephants. Ringling captures a baby elephant from the wild, preferably female, and breeds it at an extremely young age. After the new baby elephant is born, it is immediately taken away from its once wild, young mother.
In the wild, female elephants stay with their mother for life, and male elephants move on after maturity. Ringling allegedly takes the child from their mother “to break the elephants spirit.”
In order to keep the mother elephant from returning to its baby, the mother is chained by all four legs. This was actually a scene in Walt disney’s 1941 film, Dumbo. The baby elephant is then chained up, and given only one hour of the day to move. Next, Ringling’s trainers hit the baby elephants with bull hooks and tie all four legs to the ground, which is a tactic they use to teach the elephant to lie down. A similar cruel process is completed to teach the elephants to sit and dance on the stools.
So here are my many questions to the Ringling Brothers:
Do you have any feelings at all to actually believe that this was moral and humane of you?
What took you so long to come to the realization that this type of treatment was not okay?
Who is your PR person and why did you let her release a statement saying the decision was made due to “a mood shift in consumers, we want to get back to what we do best which is live entertainment,” as she stands in front of elephants being forcibly kept on what Ringling calls in all seriousness, an “elephant farm.”
I am not a PR professional (yet) but I’m almost positive the better statement would have included that Ringling wants what is best for the endangered elephant species, not the corporation.
Why are you waiting until 2018 to completely phase out the elephant acts? Why can’t they be set free now, in 2015?
Lastly, my question for all of us, is how could we have sat back and watched without general wonder what these animals have been going through for the past 145 years?
I am not saying the circus needs to end, but forcing animals that have no free will to be involved in something so unnatural to their existence should end. It should end now, in 2015, not 2018, for all animals, not just the elephants.