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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

The Defender
Vol. 2, No. 1 - Spring/Summer 2003

The UNReality Show -- The truth behind exotic animal training

by Don Elroy, Director of The P.E.A.C.E. Project

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 states, emphatically.

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.

Return to The Defender: Vol. 2, No. 1 - Spring/Summer 2003
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