I am sure the good citizens of the Glendale Rose Float Assn. who select the float design each year did not see this coming (“Elephant float kerfuffle charges on,” Sept. 7). A circus elephant theme seemed like good, old-fashioned (if clichéd) fun.
I am certain it was not meant to condone animal abuse in any way. But, unfortunately, that’s exactly what this depiction does, and that is why there has been such a strong reaction from people who understand the issues involved.
You see, training elephants for our entertainment is not done solely with treats and good treatment. In order for people to be in charge of these large and powerful creatures, bull hooks (heavy sticks with a sharp hook) are used. Sometimes, the animal is not just guided, but beaten or “hooked” with these instruments.
You can easily witness this yourself: there is a video online that depicts the brutal training techniques that were used on the elephant star of “Water for Elephants,” a movie that, ironically, depicts the abusive treatment of an elephant.
OK, so maybe the members of the association made their decision before the release of this movie and the controversy surrounding it. What about the demonstrations in Los Angeles when the circus came to town last summer and the summer before? Hundreds of people came together to protest not only the training methods used, but the dismal living conditions of elephants in zoos — stuffy boxcars and idle time spent in chains.
And how could the float committee miss all the news in recent years concerning the L.A. Zoo and the debate about whether it should continue to keep elephants in captivity at all? Eventually, it was decided to keep the elephants and the zoo habitat was vastly improved and expanded. (By the way, for years now, the L.A. Zoo has had a policy of “protective contact” where the keepers care for the elephants from behind barricades, negating the use of bullying and bull hooks.)
With a parade theme of “Just Imagine,” it’s a shame that Glendale’s entry is not only unimaginative, but on a deeper level, perpetuates the myth that elephant circus acts are just clean, old-fashioned fun. I’ll tell you what I like to imagine: a world in the near future in which we use a more enlightened approach toward animals in our care and no longer condone animal abuse as entertainment.
As a start, we can make some changes to the float before its debut on television screens across the country on Jan. 1.