5 min read

Elephant Rides Are Always Cruel Even If They're 'Treated Well'

<p> Photo courtesy of Animal Rights Coalition </p>

In Minnesota we have a great Renaissance Festival. Many people dress up in costume to attend, and you can see shows and buy wares you won't find at any state fair or other festival. It's some of the best people watching! The downside of this festival, however, is that people can pay to ride elephants and camels.

When I decided to attend the protest at the Renaissance Festival organized by the Animal Rights Coalition, a friend noticed that I RSVP'd to the event on Facebook and contacted me. She let me know that she knows the owners, and that the elephants are treated very well. Even though I don't know the owners, riding exotic animals is something I'll never support, no matter how "well" they're treated. Elephants are trained in incredibly cruel ways, and riding elephants you think are treated well encourages other people to ride them at the circus and when overseas - and those elephants are definitely not treated well.

I did some research on the exotic animals used at the Renaissance Festival, and these animals are rented from a place in Texas called Trunks and Humps. The owner of Trunks and Humps is Bill Swain. His son, Mike Swain, can be seen in the following video beating elephants with a bullhook and a golf club. Then he's shown kicking an elephant. Nice guy, huh?

There were four of us protesting at the entrance to the fair off the highway. We waved, and any time someone had their windows open, I shouted, "Have a great time! Please don't ride the elephants!" For the most part people waved back or gave a thumbs up. One woman shouted back, "I'm going to ride the [expletive] out of those elephants!" Whether she did or not, I hope most of the people we encountered will think twice about riding the elephants or camels there.

Kristen Hall and Melanie Jacobs protest at the entrance to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

People want to experience exotic wild life up close. As a lover of all animals, I understand that. But our desire to be near an exotic, magnificent creature will never be more important than his or her right to live a peaceful life in which they're not required to interact with humans for entertainment. And sometimes your friends might disagree with you, but I believe any time you remain silent so as not to offend your friends or family, a part of your soul dies.

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way."

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Elephant rides belong in the past. When Ringling Bros. is more progressive than you by ending it's reign of terror on elephants, it's time to get with the program. If you go to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I hope you have a great time. But please don't ride the elephants.