Performing at a Price

The two articles in the March 3 edition of The Times about elephants illustrate why these animals should not be kept in captivity.

In the first article (“Bill Would Ban Zoo Elephant Rides, Limit Discipline”), we learn that disciplinary techniques have become so severe that it has become necessary to legislate controls and limits to what can be done to elephants. Kindness and good husbandry/management can never be legislated, it is dependent upon rapport with and understanding of the animal. Banning elephant rides may eliminate one type of performing that requires extreme “discipline,” but elephant shows, requiring even more intense and frequent “discipline,” will continue.

And what of the discipline tactic chosen for Cindy (“Tacoma to Take Back Cindy, an Albatross of an Elephant for Park”)? What could be crueler or more stupid than isolating her with the bull of which she is terrified and with which she has refused to breed?

Surely, that will not improve her already antisocial behavior. Cindy and Dunda exemplify not only the management problems associated with keeping elephants captive, but the attitude of the zoo: Treat behavioral problems with psychological punishment and force animals to perform with physical punishment.

The public has long been enchanted by elephants, but to suggest that their appreciation must be bought at such great expense to elephants is ludicrous. The public’s adoration has not, and will not, do anything positive for the elephant and comes at a price too dear for the animals to afford.