Sunday, April 4, 2010

No way to treat a baby

How do baby elephants become circus performers? Very, very (physically, mentally and emotionally) painfully -- through tearing families apart, breaking their spirits and violent training.

In an article that is truly hard to look at because the photos of baby elephants being “broken” are heartbreaking, PETA’s Animal Times magazine documents still another area of terrible animal abuse.

By now, people are pretty familiar with the fact that zoos are no place for elephants (or any animal). But for some reason, circuses aren’t getting the same heat. Is it because circuses are billed as such fun for “kids of every age”? That’s not a claim zoos could make with any conviction.

For this article, an elephant handler with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus provided specifics as well as photos. The first step is to remove still-nursing baby elephants (of 18-24 months) from their mothers, forcibly, of course.

In the wild, the article says, they usually nurse until five years of age, in a nurturing environment. In the circus, not so: they are dragged away from their mothers.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the second step is to break the babies’ spirits. They are kept indoors, tied up for most of the day, crying for their mothers and straining at their ropes. With no playtime to work off their energy, “the baby elephants at Ringling endure a terrifying combination of ropes, chains, bullhooks, electric shock prods, maternal deprivation and corporal punishment.”

Third, the babies have about a year of often violent training sessions. This includes being “forced by several adult men into confusing and physically difficult positions that will eventually be incorporated into circus routines.”

What else is there to say?

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