People enjoy showbiz, but elephants do not. This is the message Alec Baldwin delivers in a disturbing four-minute video recently released with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to raise awareness of elephant mistreatment in circuses.
According to Baldwin, elephants in a circus live very different lives from animals in the wild, beginning as babies when "they are torn away form their mothers and forced to begin training for their circus performances."
Baldwin goes on to describe the treatment of some elephants in circuses, describing photos taken by a Ringling trainer allegedly showing "the terrified baby elephants as they are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods. They scream, cry and struggle while they are forced into the painful positions necessary for circus tricks."
Veterinarian Dr. Mel Richardson describes in the video that these methods are used to break the spirit of the elephant so that they will perform tricks. To Richardson though, "the amount of suffering those elephants go through in order to entertain anyone's five year old for 15 minutes is a crime."
The treatment of elephants in circuses has long been a contentious issue. Last November, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Feld Entertainment) agreed to pay a $270,000 fine for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Although Feld did not admit wrongdoing, they agreed to both pay the fine and develop animal handling training for employees.
More recently, a judge blocked a ban on the use of bullhooks in Atlanta, Georgia, just as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ringling Brothers spokesman Stephen Payne said, "When it comes to taking care of elephants and other exotic animals, we really are the experts. Not PETA."
Payne also recently wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, defending their treatment of elephants: "All of our animals are trained using a system of repetition and reward. Elephants and horses are transported in custom-built, specially designed railway cars. As a result, the health and vitality of our animals is something we can showcase at each and every Ringling Bros. performance."
While the animals may appear healthy during performances, Baldwin says that behind-the-scenes is a much different story. He cites findings that some elephants are beaten before walking on stage, and alleges that when not performing, elephants are chained up for long hours, resulting in chronic health problems.
Other celebrities have also spoken out against the use of elephants in circuses. Actress Olivia Munn blogged for HuffPost about Sarah, a 54-year-old elephant with a chronic infection. Munn wrote: "An elephant who reaches out her trunk to another in friendship or for comfort is punished with a whack of a bullhook -- a heavy baton with a sharp point and hook on the end -- the ubiquitous device used by Ringling to keep elephants fearful and compliant."
Baldwin concludes in his video, "Circuses deny animals everything that is natural and important to them. Every basic instinct is met with punishment. As long as circuses continue to use elehpants, these intelligent beings will continue to experience enormous suffering. Please, never attend a circus that uses animals."
WATCH Alec Baldwin's video on elephants in circuses:
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