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Tell OSHA to Apply SeaWorld Legal Decision to Elephants in Circuses

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Originally Posted: 2012

Tell OSHA to Apply SeaWorld Legal Decision to Elephants in Circuses

FROM In Defense of Animals (IDA)

ACTION

It’s time for OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) to acknowledge that elephants are dangerous wild animals who pose far greater potential for human injury and death than orcas, and it’s not limited to handlers. Elephants in circuses are in close proximity to the public, often with no barriers between them, and are even used to give rides. If it is too dangerous for an experienced trainer to ride an orca, it is too dangerous for a child to ride an elephant.

Sign an online petition:
https://secure2.convio.net/ida/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=2181&JServSessionIdr004=jlyt62w5z3.app246b

And/or better yet, make direct contact:

David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
phone 800-321-OSHA (6742)
OSHA regional offices: http://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html

INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS

IDA is praising the legal decision rejecting SeaWorld Orlando’s appeal of two Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations that followed the horrific death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. In particular, the court supported OSHA’s recommendation that barriers be used to protect trainers working with orcas.

IDA calls on OSHA to apply that same wise recommendation to captive elephants, by requiring all handlers to work with the animals from behind a protective barrier. Many more elephants than orcas have killed trainers, and even the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognizes that elephants and handlers should be separated by a barrier. If zoos, circuses and other entertainment businesses cannot comply, they simply should not be exhibiting elephants.

Most elephant handlers are in constant contact with the animals, especially in circuses where elephants are used for performances and rides. They maintain control of elephants with the bullhook, a steel-tipped device similar to a fireplace poker that is used to prod, hook and inflict painful physical punishment. Cruel training and the stress of constant travel and confinement can cause an elephant to snap and injure or kill her trainer or a member of the public.

At least 14 human deaths and more than 135 injuries have been attributed to elephants over the last 22 years in the U.S., with the majority occurring in circuses. By comparison, four people have been killed by captive orcas and dozens injured throughout the 47 years that the species has been on public display worldwide. 

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I am pleased that Administrative Law Judge Ken S. Welsch upheld OSHA's citations against SeaWorld Orlando in the death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau. And I wholeheartedly agree with his support of your agency's recommendation that barriers be used to protect trainers working with orcas.

It is now time to extend those same wise protections to handlers working with another dangerous wild animal who poses far greater potential for human injury and death than orcas: the elephant. Many more elephants than orcas have injured and killed trainers.

At least 14 human deaths and more than 135 injuries have been attributed to elephants over the last 22 years in the U.S., with the majority occurring in circuses. By comparison, four people have been killed by captive orcas and dozens injured throughout the 47 years that the species has been on public display worldwide.

Unlike orca trainers, most elephant handlers are in near constant physical contact with the animals, especially in circuses. This includes direct contact during daily care, loading and unloading from transporters, training, and performances. Training differs from that of orcas in that elephant handlers maintain control of elephants with the bullhook, a steel-tipped device similar to a fireplace poker that is used to prod, hook and inflict painful physical punishment. Cruel training and the stress of constant travel and confinement can cause an elephant to snap and injure or kill a trainer.

You state on the OSHA website: "Worker injuries, illnesses and deaths should never be accepted as simply 'the cost of doing business'. Even one death on the job is one too many, and every workplace injury or illness places a heavy burden on our nation." OSHA can prevent the injuries and deaths of elephant handlers by simply requiring protective barriers in zoos, circuses and other forms of amusement. If these businesses cannot comply, they simply should not be exhibiting elephants.

I urge you to take the steps necessary to protect workers by requiring barriers between elephants and handlers, just as you now require barriers between orcas and trainers.  


Thank you for everything you do for animals!