The history of elephants forced to perform for the circus is almost as old as the circus itself – and it's a long history full of suffering, abuse and cruelty.
Elephants are stunningly intelligent and highly social animals, capable of experiencing emotions of joy, love and grief. Yet in the hands of Feld Entertainment and other circuses, elephants are stolen from their families and "trained" to perform through a brutal regimen of whippings, electric shocks and sharp jabs from metal bullhooks. Circus trainers aim to acquire elephants as calves, when the elephants are still young enough that their spirits can be "broken," both from the trauma of being separated from their mothers and from the abuse of training.
For decades, the public flocked eagerly to the circus, enraptured by the seemingly delightful magic of elephants performing their intricate tricks. Audiences were unaware of the horrors happening behind the curtain that made such performances possible. And the circuses did their best to keep it that way.
But in recent years, slowly but surely, the tide of public opinion began to change. It started with a few, dedicated protesters. Those few protesters launched a nationwide movement. Powerful exposes further drew attention to the harsh reality of the elephants' conditions. Other nations even began passing laws banning all wild animals from circuses.
In other words, more and more people began speaking up. And finally, at long last, Feld Entertainment listened. "There's been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers," Alana Feld, executive vice president of Feld Entertainment, told the Associated Press. "A lot of people aren't comfortable with us touring with our elephants."
Never underestimate the change that a few passionate voices, grown over time, can achieve! Elephants DC sincerely thanks all the elephant advocates who have fought for so long and for so hard for captive elephants everywhere.