Children gape in awe; adults gasp and hold their breath; the center
ring is alight with action!
Attention is focused on the man who is putting his life in danger by
placing his head in the mouth of an enormous and sooooo... scary,
man-eating Bengal tiger. The other two rings hold beautiful women riding
on the backs of elephants or being raised in their powerful trunks.
"These animals love to do these tricks, and they are treated well by our
caring staff" is what the literature pamphlets put out by the industry
It would be nice to believe that these animals truly enjoy responding
to human/animal bonding and have "fun" performing for rewards of treats
and love. The truth is a very different reality.
Exotic animal behavior is based upon reaction to their environmental
circumstances. An animal must attain a position of dominance or
subservience to coexist within a community. When moved to a human
environment, they will constantly be challenging the limits of that
environment to establish dominance and control their own situation of
importance and their continued existence.
What is a very small, little trainer to do to become the dominant
animal? Most choose to raise the animal from a young age to try to
create a bond between themselves and the animal. At the first sign of
any challenge to the human being’s power position, the animal is
punished and warned never to attempt this again. When it does happen
again, the punishment becomes more severe, including, but not limited
to, beatings, electric shock, deprivation of food and water, confinement
to enclosures with no space or sunlight, sharp objects (such as the
ankus used on elephants), constant berating language, and many other
forms of abusive intimidation.
Many of these things are thought of within the industry as
"acceptable training methods". The animal becomes so afraid of the
trainer that he/she may urinate or defecate simply upon the appearance
of the trainer nearby. The animal will then do anything that the trainer
wants him/her to do in a public situation for fear of reprisal. This is
why many people do not understand what could be wrong with what they see
in public exhibition of animals. The tiger cuddles with the trainer,
licks his/her face, and it seems to be a beautiful relationship.
In testimony from a civil court case concerning the "alleged"
purchase of a tiger, the people who were to buy the tiger stated that
they watched as the trainer pulled the tiger by a chain around her neck,
pulled her tail from the other end, beat her over the head with dowel
rods and shoved a cattle prod down her throat. The "buyers" testified
that they were told by the trainer this needed to be done in order to
"break her spirit". Further, they testified that the trainer informed
them to establish a dominant position over the tiger or suffer the
consequences. Video of this tiger shows her struggling to stand and a
large protrusion on the top of her head.
Recent events concerning animal trainer, Josh Weinstein, have
uncovered this type of dominance displayed with the chimpanzee, Tarzan.
On camera Mr. Weinstein berates Tarzan through language and physical
contact. He is seen grabbing Tarzan by the face and applying pressure to
his cheeks and jaw, while Tarzan was dressed as Dolly Parton. The tape
was viewed by Jane Goodall and Roger Fouts, who both concluded that
Tarzan was confused as to what Mr. Weinstein wanted from him and was
reacting from a long period of abuse. Tarzan is now dead. Currently, an
investigation is examining the circumstances surrounding his death and
former care by this trainer.
Every day you can find coverage in newspapers, in magazines, and on
television concerning exotic animals that have reacted to these types of
situations by fighting back. Trainers are injured or killed, as are
unsuspecting members of the public.
In one circus incident, a family was allowed to ride on an elephant
that decided it was time to strike back. With the family on her back,
the elephant went on a rampage destroying the steel stairway and
platform used to provide the elephant rides and then subsequently
attacking the crowd of observers.
Recently, an African elephant named Flora struck back at two handlers
at the Miami Metrozoo. An inexperienced young trainer was injured
critically with broken shoulders and other bones and bruising to his
brain. Flora was supposed to be at the zoo after "retiring" from Circus
Flora, before moving to a sanctuary created for her. Ivor David Balding,
Flora’s "owner", stated that he could not understand why Flora would
react in this way, since she had never done this before. The trouble was
that she had. A recent article from the Miami Herald stated that
back in 1999 Flora had caused injuries to a woman on Ivor David
Balding’s South Carolina property, where the sanctuary was to be
located. Another curious statement made by Mr. Balding was that Flora
was sent to the Miami Metrozoo "in hopes of getting her pregnant". We,
at The Peace Project, have taken the position in a recent press release
that Flora should be released to an established sanctuary and have
recommended the PAWS sanctuary in Galt, California. No true sanctuary
allows the breeding of animals for perpetuating captivity and abuse.
In observations of animals in their own habitat, have you ever seen
any of the following behaviors exhibited? Have you ever seen a tiger
jumping through a hoop of fire (tigers are deathly afraid of fire), an
elephant standing on hind legs (I have statements from USDA that found
elephants with arthritis after a complaint against Ringling Brothers
Circus), or a monkey wearing human clothing and smiling (which is an
expression of fear)? The next time that you see any animal performing an
unnatural behavior, I hope that you will stand up and let your voice be
heard over the voices of an industry that makes its profit from the
exploitation and intimidation of animals.
Thank you all for what you do to help these animals, in whatever way
that you can.