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Elephants Are Still Dying—and Not Just for Their Tusks

But being killed isn't the only way that elephants are harmed by humans. Consider the Laguna Niguel bride who rented an elephant from the notorious Have Trunk Will Travel company for her wedding.

Ivory invokes an image of colonial Africa, where ruthless "big-game" hunters stalked and mowed down elephants for their tusks. A recent decision by California lawmakers to prohibit the sale of body parts of any animal currently protected by endangered-species laws is an important reminder that the massacre of elephants for their tusks continues—and a good opportunity for us to look at how these animals are treated a little closer to home.

Rightfully banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and condemned by anyone with a conscience, ivory is now mostly relegated to dusty china cabinets and old piano keys. But because there will always be humans who will do anything for money, including killing animals and collecting their body parts, elephants will continue to die.

PETA's telephone lines and in-boxes were flooded when Spain's King Juan Carlos recently killed an elephant while on an African hunting safari and Donald Trump's sons gleefully posed with the dead bodies of animals they had massacred while in Zimbabwe, including an elephant whose tail had been cut off after he was killed. Internet provider GoDaddy's CEO Bob Parsons was defiant and proud of a video that he released showing himself posing with an elephant he had blasted to death.

But being killed isn't the only way that elephants are harmed by humans. Consider the Laguna Niguel  from the notorious Have Trunk Will Travel company for her wedding—and San Diego Fair organizers who are still hiring this outfit to provide rides, even though the Orange County Fair, the Los Angeles County Fair and the Santa Ana Zoo have all given these rides the boot in the interests of animal welfare.

Baby elephants are torn screaming and crying from their frantic mothers in order to be trained to perform tricks for Ringling Bros. circus. They are tied by all four legs and surrounded by people  wielding bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on the end) and electric prods. These violent training sessions, which last for three to four hours a day, continue for up to a year until the youngsters' spirits are broken and they submit.

And consider elephants such as Lucy, who lives by herself at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada. Sick and lonely, she spends most of her time in a small barn. Although a California sanctuary would welcome Lucy, the zoo refuses to give its "cash cow" the retirement that she deserves.

We rightfully condemn the killing of elephants for their tusks. But we must also take a long hard look at how we condone the cruel treatment of elephants right here at home. Hauling them around from venue to venue for rides, making them perform in circuses and housing them in cramped enclosures at the zoo are all just wrong.

Jennifer O'Connor is a staff writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org/.

Philip Tripp July 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM
How ironic that your own claims are absolutely wrong: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/18/local/la-me-elephants-20111218 And the rest of your rant has absolutely nothing to do with beating elephants with bullhooks and forcing them to perform tricks.
Julia July 11, 2012 at 09:02 PM
You are okay with whipping animals as well? Sounds like you are a bridezilla who just HAD to have something over the top at your wedding so that people besides you will remeber it for more than a day. I am not down with everything PETA does, but pretty please don't go thinking that you are a "true animal advocate" if you are okay with the way baby elephants are broken
Linda Crews July 12, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I can't believe that anyone would think that it is ok for anyone to steal a child animal or not from it's mother beat it,shock it,break it's spirit all for entertainment. It makes me sick to read that people really think this doesn't happen to these amazing animals it does happen! We need to stop the abuse NOW!!!
Cathy D Bales July 13, 2012 at 01:54 AM
There was no way you did any amount of reliable research if you had Tai in your wedding and think HTWT really cares for their elephants. It is not just the INITIAL training that is violent, it ALL is - the videos of it are all over the Internet. You also talk about their breeding programs, but breeding for what? Just to fill their pockets, it's certainly not for conservation. By definition, if they were concerned about conserving elephants, they would return at least some of the babies they breed to the wild. I am not a member of PETA but I believe they do have it right about HTWT, circuses, and any person who thinks that it is okay to use such an intelligent and emotional creature as an elephant for our amusement. It is not right, no matter how much you try and justify it to yourself.
Louise Doherty July 13, 2012 at 08:43 AM
May I ask, how are you respected in your community for being "a true animal advocate and educator"? The fact that you think it's fine for animals to be out of their natural habitat and used as entertainment for humans enjoyment, implies to me that you are unaware of what is best for the animals welfare. I'm not going to pretend to know a great deal about wild animals, but surely the clue is in the word 'wild'. And anyone with an ounce of common sense in their heads would understand that taking them out of their natural surroundings and forcing them to do un-natural things is completely and utterly wrong! # #

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