DawnWatch: Exceptional circus article in Orange County Weekly — 8/3/06

August 5th, 2006 2:44 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Aug 4, 2006 8:35 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: Exceptional circus article in Orange County Weekly — 8/3/06

The current Orange County Weekly (August 3 edition) circulated throughout Orange County in California, has a wonderful expose of the circus, by Steve Lowery. The page has a large photo of an elephant walking with a trainer who is brandishing a bullhook. The photo caption is, “Don’t make me hurt you.” The article is headed, “Dumbo and Dumber. Handlers give circus Elephants the bullhook.”

Lowery’s article opens:

“The elephants feed on the dried grass and cover themselves with dirt provided by handlers, oblivious to the people watching from behind a chain link enclosure on the Arrowhead Pond parking lot. It’s an hour before the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’s opens for a run that continues through this weekend, and the spectators look on quietly, awestruck, few seeming to notice the handlers exchanging their shovels and brooms for short sticks with heavy metal hooks at one end.

“The handlers head back toward the elephants, the first to reach his animal moving the stick quickly, subtly. The movement, all of a few inches, isn’t exactly menacing; rather, it suggests an intention to menace, and almost immediately the Asian female begins the process of lowering her girth down on one rear leg, then another.

“The scenario is played out again by the next handler–and the next–in front of a crowd that doesn’t seem to notice the hooks, perhaps because they are handled so deftly or perhaps because the sticks are usually black and easily hidden when held against a handler’s black pants.

“‘How did he make it go down?’ a boy asks a man who looks like maybe his grandfather.

“Grandpa explains that handlers and elephants enjoy a sort of psychic bond: ‘They’re pals.’

We’re told that Ringling says the bullhooks help the trainers communicate with the animals. Elephant activist Carol Buckley is quoted:

“‘Yeah, they’re communicating, ‘I’m going to hurt you big time.'”

The we read:

“When one handler seems less sure in his movements, has trouble communicating that he wants his animal to get up, a second man strides purposely toward it, glares and raises the bullhook slightly. The elephant gets up.”

We are told about footage on the PETA website showing elephant trainers hacking at legs and telling colleagues to ‘make ’em scream.'” (See www.circuses.com)

But we’re informed that the bullhooks aren’t the worst of it:

“Activists say that chaining the animals in arena parking lots or train boxcars is far more dangerous. The long hours and the crushing weight produce arthritis that cripples them and, critics say, explains why circus elephants usually survive to just 35–about half of their life expectancy in the wild.”

We read that some people (those who profit from elephant displays) say people care more about elephants if they can see them. But then the reporter, Lowery, asks, “But does someone care more about an elephant because it stands on its head?”

And the article sings the praises of Cirque du Soleil, which relies on willing human performers.

It ends:

“And so, tonight, the elephants are led away to be outfitted to perform for tonight’s show. The handlers march with them, their arms stiffly holding black bullhooks tight against their black pants. They direct the elephants past the tent where they sleep, past a platform strewn with heavy chains, past a baby elephant rocking back and forth.”

You’ll find the whole piece on line at: http://www.ocweekly.com/news/news/dumbo-and-dumber/25591/

Please send an appreciative letter to the editor for this exceptional story. The paper takes letters at letters [at] ocweekly.com and advises, “Letters to the editor must be brief and must include a phone number.”

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. To unsubscribe, go to http://www.dawnwatch.com/cgi-bin/dada/dawnwatch_unsubscribe.cgi
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