Tag Archives: elephants

Elephants Take the Stage

I wrote a post awhile back, about elephants, after taking our boys to the circus and having a very unexpected emotional reaction. I left there with a heavy heart and a promise to educate myself about the elephants’ life in captivity. This is a follow-up post to what I’ve learned.

One of the questions that came up in the comments was whether the elephants are better off in captivity because the wild has become an inhospitable place with an  ever-shrinking habitat and resources and poachers thinning herds yearly by the thousands. Plus, they’re intelligent creatures, maybe they enjoy learning tricks and performing for us?

I’ve watched some horrifying videos of elephants being abused by circus workers “training” them to perform, and I’ve also read the opinions of people defending such practices of using chains, ropes and bull-hooks. But, last night I stumbled upon a HBO documentary called “An Apology to the Elephants” and it was the nail in the coffin for me. Elephants have been shown to experience grief, trauma and depression. Living in chains, being intimidated into entertaining us and having their calves separated from them forcefully causes them pain. There’s no doubt left in my mind. We are harming these majestic creatures.

Here are some facts from the documentary:

• Roughly 38,000 elephants a year are killed for their tusks. At this rate, we will have wiped out their entire species in the wild in ten years. TEN YEARS.

• Over 50% of elephants in captivity will die of foot-related disease. These are creatures built to roam, not stand on hard surfaces for hours.

• It is still legal to keep an elephant chained for up to 19 hours a day.

• In the wild, they spend 16 hours a day roaming and foraging for food. Their bodies are built for this, and the swaying motion you see in zoos and circuses is from the anxiety of not being able to act on this natural instinct.

Believe me, I know there are issues in the world closer to home than making sure elephants don’t go extinct and aren’t abused and suffering in our hands. And I know that there’s only so much one person can do. But, this is my personal burden now.

So, here are some simple ways you can help:

• Don’t buy ivory

• Don’t support circuses

• Do support elephant sanctuaries and zoos that give them room to roam, like the Oakland Zoo

• If you’d like to get more involved, support PAWS Elephant Sanctuary

• Pass this knowledge on!

On a positive note, Britain has recently banned wild animals from being used in circuses. It will take effect in 2015. We need to follow their lead! As the documentary stated, “Zoos can be fixed, circuses cannot.”

Thanks for reading this far. Stepping off my soapbox now. If you have a cause you’re passionate about, please talk to me about it!

♥This post is dedicated to the memory of Topsy♥  (Warning, this is a very disturbing story)






A Night at the Circus

We took our twins to the circus for their seventh birthday. It was all of our first time at a real Barnum and Bailey “Greatest Show on Earth” experience. I was excited. We were going to introduce the boys to the magic and mystery of humans conquering gravity, fear and doing the impossible. They were going to gain a love and awareness of animals. They were going to giggle at these animals doing tricks. Tigers sitting on chairs, waiting to amaze us with how domesticated they could be. Poodles dancing with each other. Horses twirling in sync. Elephants…

Yeah. The elephants.

Here’s where the spell was broken for me.

As the dozen or so large gray bodies filled the arena, a wave of sadness hit me. It hit me so hard, I was suddenly blinking back tears. Sorrow. That’s what I was feeling and then panic, because I had no idea where it was coming from or how I was going to keep from scaring the kids around me by breaking down. I held my breath and concentrated on the steel scaffolding and lights above me. When I got the tears under control, I worked on breathing through the suffocating, oppressive emotion. I told myself to feel it and let it go because this is what I’ve been practicing.

It helped. It helped me look at the elephants again. We were in the front, so I could see right into one big brown eye. I made myself keep looking. Made myself see. See the gentle soul within that massive body. My heart broke for him. I promised him and myself that I would research their living conditions. That if there was something I could do to change their lot in life, I would do it.

I enjoyed other parts of the circus. Watching the humans, who had a choice, perform mind-boggling acts of strength and grace. I enjoyed the boys’ wide-eyed innocence as they watched the daring tight-rope walkers, the clown on ten foot stilts, a girl shot out of a cannon and the acrobatics that rivaled the Olympics.

Girl being shot from a cannon

And I’m glad that I experienced something else. I’m not quite sure what it was, really. I’m not even saying the elephants don’t live a great life full of peanuts and massages. But the pain was real and it wasn’t mine. Until that night.

“Having no idea is the doorway to realization.” Karen Maezen Miller 

I’ve only begun to look into their story so I can’t claim to know any facts. But if this is something that speaks to you and you’d like to help you can sign this petition. I don’t know if it will make any difference but it’s a step through the door.

How do you feel about animals in the circus? Have you ever experienced anything like this? Please share.