116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As a young single mother, living in a small town, I admittedly was excited for the circus to come to town. I lived in Marquette, Mich., where affordable “kid friendly entertainment” was nearly unheard of 14 years ago. My daughter was giddy with delight when she was allowed to ride an elephant and have a photo taken with the bears. Together we oohed and aahed, as the elephants danced, tigers flew through rings of fire, and bears rode bicycles. If only I knew then, what I know now, I would never have supported this kind of wild animal “entertainment.”
I was incredibly disappointed a few days ago when I received an envelope in the mail, with a flyer for the circus and upward of 20 free tickets for children with a paying adult. I sincerely thought humans had evolved to the point where we could all agree that elephants belonged in the wild, roaming for miles, and living with their herd. Instead, Cedar Rapids welcomed this disgraceful “entertainment” that included an elephant act. Unfortunately, Cedar Rapids has not chosen to ban bull hooks either. For those wondering, a bull hook is rod with a metal hook on the end. Bull hooks are used by elephant handlers in circuses to cause pain and fear, with the intent of controlling these beautiful wild animals and forcing them into submission to perform tricks. Many of these “tricks” such as standing on their hind legs (which is regularly performed) is not a normal behavior, especially for female elephants. These repetitive unnatural movements can cause severe joint issues and pain.
Elephants can also be on the road 11 months out of the year, with chains around their legs barely able to move. When an elephant is forced to stand for long hours on hard surfaces without any exercise, they can develop painful arthritis and horrific foot infections. In the wild, an elephant can roam upward of 30 miles a day. Can you imagine how it would feel if all your natural instincts to roam, graze, raise families, (many matriarchs of the herd are great-grandmothers), play, bathe in bodies of water, and share the responsibilities for all the young in the herd were taken away from you? What is there left to live for? Wouldn’t that make you “go crazy?”
Elephants held in captivity are denied anything that would allow happiness, joy, and contentment. Years of emotional and physical mistreatment will eventually take its toll on this highly intelligent animal. Many become neurotic and depressed. Some will act out aggressively.
There have been dozens of reports of Elephants attacking their handlers and bystanders. People are also injured when the animals finally break free of their captors. Because of these inherent risks to humans, I find it shocking that wild animals in circuses have not been banned in their entirety. I will mention that the state of Iowa has outlawed Elephant rides, but can’t we do more for these beautiful sentient beings? If the way these animals are abused and tortured does not detour you from bringing your family to the most deplorable show on earth, perhaps the risk of injury, or death will …
Alison Stone and is the executive director of Hercules' Haven in Springville, a haven for farm animals.