Ron Kagan, Director, Detroit Zoo
Belle Isle Zoo
Belle Isle Aquarium
Dennis W. Archer, Mayor
July 17, 1998
To Whom it May Concern:
The Detroit Zoological Institute's mission is to celebrate and save wildlife. Therefore, I am sending this letter in support of efforts to assist circus elephants.
The Zoo community has evolved over the past few decades from primarily entertainment venues to organizations committed to animal conservation and welfare as well as environmental education and recreation. We believe that anyone holding captive animals shares the responsibility of providing healthy, physical and social environments. We also believe that animals should not be used in demeaning or degrading ways such as the case when animals are forced to perform. We are part of nature, and reducing an animal to a caricature only perpetuates distorted views and attitudes about animals.
Unfortunately, elephants that live on the road are not able to have either appropriate physical or social environments. Constant travel, daily and prolonged chaining and rigorous physical training are all stressful and harmful to elephants. These animals are intelligent and social, and suffer psychological as well as physical harm if they are not provided for properly. By definition, it is not possible for a traveling circus to provide an appropriate physical environment with free-roaming space, natural substrates, stable climatic conditions, etc.
Finally, there is the serious issue of public safety with regard to performing elephants. Numerous injuries and deaths (both to people and elephants) have occurred when they are forced to perform.
We support efforts to protect all captive animals and encourage responsible legislation which helps animals and contributes to public safety.
Ron L. Kagan, Director
Carol Buckley, Executive Director, The Elephant Sanctuary
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald
The nation's first natural-habitat refuge where sick, old and needy elephants can once more walk the earth in peace and dignity.
May 11, 1997
To Whom It May Concern:
I have been asked to give my opinion on the exotic animal industry, as it pertains to traveling and performing elephants.
After 23 years of traveling, performing and living with captive elephants, it is my opinion that traveling/performing elephants suffer both physically and psychologically.
It is my belief that an animal's natural habitat and behavior should be studied in order to determine if the captive individual is being cared for humanely. In the wild, elephants graze and forage 20 hours of each day, walk 30 to 50 miles each day and form intricate and lifelong relationships with related family members.
My studies have taught me that elephants have three basic needs: food (live vegetation), family (related or compatible individuals) and freedom (ability to move at will and walk unrestricted distances). As sirnple as these needs are, traditional elephant management practices are not able to meet them.
Listed are a few simple realities of the life of a traveling/performing elephant:
If these realities were in an effort to save an animal's life, I could justify.them, but this is not the case. Elephants as entertainers are subject to the compromises of life on the road.
David Hancocks, former Director, Woodland Park Zoo
The Seattle Times
Posted at 06:32 a.m. PDT; Friday, October 15, 1999
Wild animals don't belong in the circus
Special to The Seattle Times
WERRIBEE, Australia -- Keeping wild animals in zoos and circuses is such an ancient custom that, like most traditions, its viability and purpose are rarely questioned. Putting wild animals on show merely to satisfy people's curiosity was acceptable in former days, but is no longer acceptable in civilized societies. Thus, in recent years, accredited and professionally operated zoos around the world have been seeking firmer foundations to justify their existence.
Over the past two decades, such zoos have formed two strong platforms: in public education and in wildlife conservation. They have become experienced at creating simulations of natural habitats and presenting wild .nlmals as integral inhabitants of those habitats. Their purpose is to interpret animal behaviors within that habitat context. In this way, zoos have become more valuable -- as emotional links to wild places, eliciting community and politioal support for habitat conservation around the world.
Increasingly, too, zoos are becoming directly involved in conservation activities in the wild, lending their expertise and enthusiasm to recovery programs worldwide.
Circuses, conversely, have not progressed in any of these directions. Indeed, the very nature of their itinerant structure makes such evolution impossible. They are now an anachronism in our society.
When they portray animals as freaks and curiosities, devoid of context or dignity, circuses are perpetuating outdated attitudes. Wild animals in the circus are reduced to mere caricatures of their kind, exhibited just for financial gain. In this way, they corrupt our children, promoting the notion that exploitation and degradation is acceptable, even brave or funny.
Although I am not aware of any scientific studies on the levels of stress and trauma on circus animals, it is intuitively obvious that the removal of an animal from anything that ever resembled its natural habitat, the constant relocation of the circus cages, the habit of separating social animals and the unnatural bundling together of normally solitary species, the constant noise and disruptions, the training and subjugation techniques (whioh have often been revealed as unspeakably cruel) all combine to make a life of useless misery for circus animals.
They may be well fed and watered, but every other detail of their lives is completely unnatural. And to what end? Are our children's lives in any way enriched by watching bears dance like crazed men? Do we understand anything more about elephants by dressing them in princely regalia and parading them in lines? Are we ennobled by reducing the king of beasts to an impotent hoop jumper?
Circuses without animals can bring magic into our lives. That is the only tradition they should now pursue.
Seattle has a tradition of progressive standards and would strike a profound blow for the dignity of people and of wild animals if it limited circus shows in town to those that brought us the wonder of clowns and jugglers, but not the pathetic pacing and saddening sight of wild animals in circus shows. Those days are gone. Or should be.
Former Woodland Park Zoo director David Hancocks is director of Victoria's Open Range Zoo in Werribee, Australia.
Jane Goodall, primatologist
June 13, 2001
Mayor Bill Bogaard
Dear Mayor Bogaard:
I am writing to you to as a supporter of the Animal Display Ordinance banning exotic animals in circuses, scheduled to be heard by the Pasadena City Council on Monday, June 18, 2001. I encourage you to pass this compassionate ordinance.
There are a number of reasons why it is inappropriate, often very cruel, to use great apes and other exotic animals, in circuses and other forms of entertainment where they are required to perform unnatural behaviors day after day, on command. Firstly, although it is possible to train them using only kindness, by rewarding and praising them when they perform well, this requires the kind of time and patience which is usually lacking in the fast moving world of "show biz". Almost all trainers will admit that they beat their performers during training. In many cases the abuse is horrendous.
An animal trainer at the famous Ringling Brothers circus, had this to say about an act: "I first witnessed the training of four chimps in our winter quarters in Venice, Florida. They were on a long, multi-seated bicycle on which three of the large chimps rode as passengers while the largest, Louie, steered and pedaled. The vehicle was difficult for even a human to ride under those conditions, and Louie had a hard time of it, spilling the ensemble repeatedly. And, repeatedly, he was struck with a sturdy club. The thumps could be heard outside the arena building, and the screams went further than that. My blood boiled, I'm ashamed to say I did nothing!"
Of course, all trainers are not so brutal. There are probably some individual apes who actually enjoy performing -- even in the wild some youngsters enjoy "showing off". But this will be the exception rather than the rule.
The second reason why it is inappropriate to use the great apes in circuses is because of the terribly wrong impression it gives to the audience. Because, typically, young chimpanzees and orangutans are used (the adults are far too large, powerful and potentially dangerous) people have the impression that these apes are small, cute, and cuddly. They can have no concept of the majesty of the full grown animal. And it is this unrealistic picture that perpetuates the continued buying and selling of young chimpanzees as "pets".
This brings me to the third point in my argument. Once chimpanzees have reached puberty, when they are 6 to 8 years old, they typically become increasingly difficult to handle and discipline. If individuals are kept on -- either in a circus or in a "pet" owner's home -- then the poor creatures will almost certainly have their teeth pulled. And they will be fitted with shock collars under their clothes. But usually the performers, when they are no longer amenable to discipline, are discarded. And it is becoming harder and harder to place them. Like human children, ape children learn by watching adults and imitating their behavior. They learn in a social context. And individuals who have had no chance to grow up in a normal group not only fail to learn the nuances of chimp etiquette, but in addition are likely to show many abnormal behaviors. Zoos usually refuse to accept ex-circus chimps and ex-pets. They tend not to fit into established groups. And so, unless they can be placed in one of the few sanctuaries for abused, surplus chimps, they will end up in medical research laboratories -- or be quietly euthanized.
Fourthly, and finally, chimpanzees are endangered in the wild. And while it is true that circus chimpanzees resident in North America are individuals who were bred in captivity, this is not necessarily true in other parts of the world -- where the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) either has not been ratified or where it is not enforced. And so circuses from Europe may well come into the country with chimpanzee or orangutan performers who were born in the wild. Thus the use of apes (and other endangered species) in entertainment does represent a drain on rapidly decreasing wild populations.
These, then, are my arguments against the use of the great apes in entertainment, such as the circus. Many of these arguments also apply to the use of other exotic animals, such as lions, tigers, bears and especially elephants.
Jane Goodall, PhD, CBE
Paul Schell, Mayor, City of Seattle
November 3, 1999
Dear Ms. Jones:
Thank you for contacting me about events involving exotic animals.
During my mayoral campaign two years ago, several groups and individuals asked me to consider prohibiting events that featured exotic animals, such as lions and elephants, at City facilities. Recently, a fourth grade class from the Waldorf School in Seattle signed a petition supporting such a ban.
As we move into the 21st century, our sensitivity to treatment of wild animals in captivity has shifted dramatically. Zoos throughout the world, for example, are changing the practice of keeping lions, elephants, and other wild animals in caged, cramped quarters, and providing more natural habitats. Such traditional events as bull fighting and the annual Pennsylvania Pigeon Shoot have come under increasing scrutiny, resulting in outright bans in some cases.
In keeping with this trend, public support for circuses that display wild animals has declined in the last several years. When kept in captivity and transported in cramped boxcars or cages, exotic animals are sentenced to a stressful, constrained existence with little or no chance to behave naturally. As a result, these animals often become unpredictable and have been known to threaten the health and safety of their keepers and people in the vicinity.
Cities throughout Europe and Canada, including our neighboring city of Vancouver, BC, and a few small cities in the U.S., have responded to this danger by adopting bans on the use of exotic animals.
I believe Seattle should take the lead in this country as the first major municipality to adopt such a ban. While the City of Seattle would no longer host circus events featuring exotic animals, we will continue to provide ample opportunities for citizens of all ages to observe these magnificent creatures in a more natural environment. Next year, for example, our world-class Woodland Park Zoo plans to offer, among many other events, family classes on the grizzly bear, Zoo camps for children, classes on exotic cats and apes, zoo keeping and habitat conservation, as well as Zoo field trips for families.
We will also continue working with the entertainment production companies, who contract with Seattle Center to bring us the traditional circus performances, to schedule more events for families, including those that feature acrobatic performances instead of exotic animal acts.
In combination with Seattle's now famous recycling program and our progressive Habitat Conservation Plan for the Cedar River Watershed, this ban can only increase Seattle's reputation for its responsible treatment of the natural world. More importantly, we'll be practicing with greater integrity what we already preach so conscientiously to our children: that the wonders of nature are to be treated with respect and enlightened understanding.
Very truly yours,
Peggy Larson, DVM, former USDA inspector
May 1, 2000
Board of Supervisors
Dear Board Members:
I support Ordinance #804 that prohibits the display of elephants for public entertainment or amusement. You are commended for your insight into the problems caused by these animals and their exhibitors.
I was a Veterinary Medical Officer for USDA for 6 years. I was in charge of the federal disease control programs and enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act in Vermont. I often inspected circuses. Circus animals are poorly inspected under the USDA Animal Welfare Act for several reasons. When a problem with a circus is found, paperwork must be generated and a compliance officer needs to visit the circus. Often by the time this is completed, the exhibitor is in another state and in another USDA veterinarian's jurisdiction. If that veterinarian happens to inspect that circus, the procedure is repeated and the exhibitor moves on without the problem being solved.
Veterinarians working for USDA do not receive training in diseases that affect animals performing in circuses and exhibition. They do not know how to diagnose diseases and do not know if the elephant or any other circus animal has a disease that infects humans. USDA veterinarians do not know how to restrain elephants or other circus animals and, furthermore, do not have the drugs necessary to do proper restraint. Proper restraint is necessary to take blood samples or tissue samples to send to a diagnostic laboratory. So the USDA veterinarians do not do diagnostic workups on circus animals. USDA veterinarians are more concerned with housing and husbandry than diseases.
Furthermore, USDA veterinarians must work with state agricultural officials who have the ultimate control over what the USDA veterinarian does or does not do. Many state agricultural officials know less than the USDA veterinarian about circus animal diseases. Often state political interests interfere with the USDA veterinarian's conducting a proper inspection. Unfortunately, USDA veterinarians do not work with the state department of health officials. These officials have a greater knowledge of zoonoses than agricultural officials do but they seldom learn of a problem with a circus animal. They are "out of the loop".
There is no amount of inspection or inspectors that can prevent an elephant from rampaging or a tiger from attacking. No one knows when the animal is about to become violent. No one knows what causes the crazed behavior. One can speculate with some grounds that the animal is sick or stressed beyond its endurance. These are wild animals in a very abnormal environment. Exercise is very limited and housing is cramped and confining. Wild animals are used to wide open spaces and their territory is large. Elephants have been known to walk 20 miles or more in a day. The food they are given is not what they would eat in the wild.
Because they are wild and dangerous, they cannot receive appropriate preventative or curative veterinary care. Neither a large animal practitioner nor a small animal veterinarian is equipped to handle elephants or big cats. These veterinarians are not trained to make diagnoses on exotic, wild animals. So circus animals are often not treated when they need care. Certainly circus personnel are not trained to make a diagnosis and they do not have access to lab facilities if they did try to find out what was wrong with an animal.
Therefore, USDA compliance is at best hopelessly ineffective. You should not rely on USDA inspections to provide you with an answer to the problem of circus animal health and care. You need to adopt your own rules so that you are in control.
The issue of zoonoses needs to be addressed. Tuberculosis in elephants is considered an emerging disease transmittable to humans. Elephants carry both human and bovine tuberculosis. Both infect humans. According to recent research, many handlers test positive for TB. (See the accompanying research material by Michalak et al on M. tuberculosis Infection as a Zoonotic Disease) TB is becoming more resistant to treatment in humans. TB is spread by exhaled air, oral secretions, feces, urine and vaginal and uterine discharges. Certainly the public would be exposed to these materials during rides or when they are up close to elephants or when walking near elephants' manure.
Elephants also carry bovine TB. Cattle could become infected. Manure from elephants in circuses is a potential source of infection. Most states have laws denying entry to bovines with TB, yet elephants pass freely through these states. Agricultural officials are unaware of this threat to livestock. Cattle infected with TB transmit the disease to humans through the milk.
To protect the public, anyone bringing exotic animals in close proximity or in contact with the public should be required to submit current TB health records for the animals. All employees/handlers should be tested and present up to date records of these tests when exposing circus animals to the public. The treatment for TB is not without risk and the drugs must be given for at least 6 months. The country needs to address the liability issue here. Most traveling wild and exotic animal exhibits are under-insured, considering the potential public danger associated with their industry. Because of the liability issue, the city or county issuing permits for the use of these animals is placing tremendous responsibility on the taxpayers in the community.
Tuberculosis is not the only microorganism that can be transmitted from elephant to human. Other deadly germs include Salmonella, Anthrax, Encephalomyelitis virus and E.coli. All of these microorganisms have caused death in humans.
#804 is a good ordinance. It removes elephants as a source of often deadly human and bovine infections.
Peggy W. Larson, DVM, MS, JD
Infectious Diseases of Elephants, by Michael Schmidt, DVM
May 1, 2000
Infectious Diseases of Elephants
By Michael Schmidt, DVM (from Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, 2nd edition, edited by Murray Fowler, DVM, published by W. B. Saunders, 1986)
Indications of illness include the following:
Bacterial Infections (many are also human pathogens)
Viral Infections (no treatment available for humans)