If you have read Possumlady Place for any amount of time, you know that I'm a big fan and supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. In turn, I'm firmly against the use of any wild animals in circuses.
You can then imagine my dismay when at my office, an all staff email went out on Thursday offering staff discount tickets to the upcoming Ringling Brothers Circus. The email literally turned my stomach. Apparently, the PR machine of Ringling was reaching out to various children's organizations. I quickly flew off an email to our HR director stating my concern. It should be noted that I'm good friends with the head of our HR department and I knew she was swamped and without her assistant for three weeks due to an injury and upcoming surgery. So, I was hesitant sending the email and tried to word it without being accusatory.
She sent me a reply that stated "okay, fine...but it IS for children and they approached US". At this point I decided to go and talk with her, but by the time I reached her office she had already left for the day.
By the time I was driving home I had a massive headache. I started berating myself, "why do you let these things get you SO upset! Why can't you just shake your head, realizing that awful things go on day after day and there is really nothing you can do about it."
The next day I decided I would go and talk to my friend. I walked into her office stating that I knew she was crazed with work and this is probably the LAST thing she wants to deal with, but...She said she was not mad at all and knows that I'm a big animal lover and also knows that some of the ways that they treat animals can be "construed" as animal abuse. Construed?? In my calm voice I said I could forward an undercover video that was taken at a circus training facility. In it you see an elephant chained in its stall with circus employees beating its legs with baseball bats. The video is complete with audio and the screams of that elephant is something that I will never be able to forget. My friend then said "Christine, you know there are a lot of people who just don't care" I then said that well may be, and I hope I'm not friends with any of these people, BUT, I also think there are a number of folks who just don't KNOW what is going on and I think we should at least give them some facts. The HR director then said she would send another email out stating that an employee voiced concerns about the treatment of animals in circuses and would attach my fact sheet that I got from CRY (Circus Reform Yes), an organization based in Minnesota.
Here is what was attached:
• Since 1990 elephants in performance situations have caused 30 human deaths and over 100 injuries worldwide. Since 1990 captive big cats have been responsible for 75 human attacks, and about one-third resulted in fatal injuries. (Statistics compiled by API)
• Most circuses have long lists of non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, and many fail to meet minimal standards aimed at insuring public safety and animal welfare. (Fact sheets for every circus kept by the USDA and compiled by API)
• Wild animals in the circus lead unnatural lives of intense confinement, chaining up to 22 hours a day, performances on demand, and are often kept in check with the standard tools of the trade- bullhooks (a long rod with a sharp metal hook used on elephants to control or punish), whips, and shock collars for primates. Having no relief from this lifestyle, they become stressed and are prone to unpredictable and dangerous behavior. Most experts agree that when elephants rampage it is because they are angry. (Congressman Bill McCollum, Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime)
• What keeps an elephant under control lies in the elephant’s training. The training can be severe, using techniques that include prolonged hitting by the elephant trainer with clubs, stabbing with the point of the ankus (bullhook), electricity, electric prods, prolonged chaining, and food deprivation. This is what keeps the general public safe from the wild elephant. (Joel J. Parrott, DVM, Director, The Oakland Zoo)
• Circus animals are routinely kept in chains or small cages for up to 22 hours a day. If a Minnesota resident kept their dog or cat like wild animals in the circus are kept, they would be guilty of a felony under the MN Anti-Cruelty Statute, Ch. 343.
• There are 26 US cities that have prohibited wild animal circuses, and hundreds in Europe that have prohibited or severely restricted performing animal acts. Recently the country of Austria added its name to the growing list, and currently four US cities/states are considering the issue.
• Sears, Mastercard and Toys R Us have all dropped their sponsorships of animal circuses. Locally Roundy’s (Rainbow Foods), and Medtronic have dropped their sponsorships. Both the Lions Club International and Kiwanis International recommend their local chapters do not use wild animal acts as fundraisers.
She sent out the email and I felt a little better. Later in the day she came by and told me she got more than a few emails from staff thanking her for the email. Most said they felt uncomfortable about the circus but didn't know what to say. Another co-worker told me she was in our lunchroom and a table of staff were talking about the email. Some folks were unaware of the abuse that went on in circuses and the whole table agreed that they would never take their children to a circus that included wild animals in their act.
Somewhere I read that "The question should not be can they think or can they communicate with us. The question should be can they suffer."
I feel SO much better!
Now, for your viewing entertainment, I'm posting a video that some of you may have seen. It first appeared on the CBS Evening News, then later on CBS's Sunday Morning program. It is from the Elephant Sanctuary and shows the wonderful and unique relationship between an elephant named Tarra and "her" dog Bella. I'm posting both a link and the video in case one doen't work.