Ivory poaching, elephant murder on the increase in Africa »
Vanity Fair has a great big article about the increase in illegal ivory trade in Africa. It’s horrible. You should read it; I’m not going to recap the whole thing here. You can have some low-lights* first, though.
Across Africa, “roughly 100 elephants are being killed each day.” Profits from ivory sales fund terrifying rebel groups, just like jewel- and ore-mining. The biggest markets for ivory right now is in East Asia, in particular China, and the Middle East. When smuggled ivory is seized, its DNA is sequenced so authorities can tell where its elephant came from. From this, we’ve learned that the ivory trade has increased everywhere in Africa that Chinese workers are.
The best paragraph:
Obviously, no ivory should be sold, legally or illegally. It has to be taken off the table completely. You can’t keep feeding the demand and providing incentives to poor Africans to continue killing their elephants. That—and educating the Chinese—is the only hope for the remaining ones in the wild. All of Africa needs to follow the lead of Kenya, which burned its ivory stock in 1989. As he ignited the 12 tons of tusks, thus depriving the government of millions of dollars of revenue, in a huge conflagration that remains the single most important event in the history of the battle for the elephants, then president Daniel arap Moi declared, “To stop the poacher, the trader must also be stopped, and to stop the trader, the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory. I appeal to people all over the world to stop buying ivory.”
Zimbabwe wants to feed prisoners elephant. People go on safari to shoot elephants. Most elephants, though, are killed because drought and poverty combined with the big ivory market have made killing them one of the only ways to earn money. Elephants are goddamn mystical, and murdering them is a terrible act of inhumanity. Read this entire article, cry your eyes out, be glad you’re not so poor that you resort to ruining the world to feed yourself. Jesus.
*Like highlights, but depressing.
[photo by brittanyhock via flickr]
Kevin James and “Zookeeper” can kiss my ass »
[Can see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com]
Tai the elephant “actor” is in this new movie Zookeeper. I call WTF: what are these movie people thinking? After the above footage came out depicting Tai getting abused in “training” for Water for Elephants, how can people just release a movie with that same elephant without at least a billion-dollar donation to an elephant welfare group? Not that a donation makes it OK, but I’m assuming they filmed before the Animal Defenders International footage was released, so maybe they didn’t get what elephant “training” actually looks like. Now that the reality of Tai’s abuse is out for everyone to see, people who have worked with Tai should be defending her! Right? If they really liked working with her and she’s such a great animal and all that? These Hollywood people get on my nerves. They actually could do something to help Tai and they don’t!
There are some people who aren’t celebrating the mistreatment of Tai; she was supposed to appear in a July Fourth parade in Sierra Madre, CA, but people flipped! Go people! The city got a ton of letters from people asking that Tai not be in the parade and blammo! She’s not. Besides taking a stand against the abuse we know Tai suffered, PETA also points out that elephants and fireworks maybe don’t go together that great. Fireworks are scary! A scared elephant is no joke! People get stomped! It’s dangerous.
So that’s the good news—kudos, Sierra Madre! I just wish Kevin James would say something about this Zookeeper bullshit. Like, at least a “my bad! Here’s a zillion dollars for the elephants!”
Toronto Zoo elephants are getting new digs thanks to Bob Barker! »
I was pretty sad when Bob Barker retired from The Price is Right, but it’s hard to argue with how he’s spent his time since. He’s an impressive activist for animals [Ed.: Always spay and neuter your pets!], and now he gets some credit for another victory: the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo will soon be moving to a more pachyderm-appropriate location than, you know, Canada.
I love Toka, Thika and Iringa; that’s why I want to see them in a better home. Toronto’s not as cold as some people think—we do not live in igloos here—but it’s definitely a lot chillier than an elephant’s natural habitat. Their current facility at the Toronto Zoo just isn’t cutting it, and a new one would be prohibitively expensive. Also, the three ladies are no spring pachyderms anymore, and as they get older, January in Canada is only going to get rougher on them. Bob Barker agrees, so much so that he’s offered to foot the bill himself in order to get the three Toronto elephants somewhere more comfortable. He’s suggested sanctuaries in California and Tennessee.
That kind of move is closer than ever before now that the Toronto Zoo Board has agreed that the elephants should be moved to a new home, either a zoo or a sanctuary. The board decided last week that their 36-year elephant program should end, but they haven’t yet figured out where its three residents should go. They’ve opened it up to other interested zoos, and the Granby zoo in Quebec wants them. Their facility, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, certainly seems like a better fit than the Toronto Zoo’s outdated digs, but Quebec’s climate isn’t any better for elephants than Toronto’s, frankly.
Another option that’s being considered is a sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society, which is the option supported by Barker and the watchdog group Zoocheck Canada. The Toronto Zoo board worries that it’s not AZA-accredited like a zoo can be, but Barker and Zoocheck vouch for the sanctuary and point out that the California climate is certainly a better fit for an animal with a natural habitat in places like Africa and India.
It’s going to take a couple years for the process of finding a new home and moving the elephants to be complete, but the good news right now is that one way or another, Toka, Thinga and Iringa will end up somewhere more suitable for them. A lot of people in Toronto will probably be sad to see them go, but this is my suggestion: once the elephants have moved on, how about putting up a display honoring the elephants’ time in Toronto and explaining why they were moved and where they’ve gone? It’s a great way to teach kids that being a good steward of animals, not maintaining a tourist attraction at all costs, is what’s really important.
Terri lives in Toronto, Ont., where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. Photo from the National Post.
More footage from Have Trunk Will Travel, the “trainers” of Tai, elephant star of Water for Elephants. This time the footage is of daily life. What you can see in the video, from Animal Defenders International:
- Have Trunk Will Travel boss Kari Johnson viciously striking an elephant
- A baby elephant being hit over the head and dragged by the trunk
- Elephants being hit and jabbed with bull hooks
- Elephants chained by the legs barely able to move (the elephants were being chained from 6.30 p.m. to 6.30 a.m., 12 hours a day)
The stuff with the baby elephants is really too much. Poor little babies. ADI released this footage because after the last footage they released, the owners of Have Trunk Will Travel, the Johnsons, were like, “say whaaa? We treat our elephants super!” So that’s why it’s pretty incredible that you can see owner Kari Johnson straight up beating elephants with a bullhook. Can’t claim ignorance now, d-bag!
If you remember, the first time I wrote about Water for Elephants, I mentioned Kari Johnson’s testimony at a Ringling trial. She says, “the guide”—aka the bullhook—“is used to reinforce the verbal cue.” Um, yeah, used like a baseball bat with a hook on the end. That will no doubt reinforce a verbal cue. In related news: SHE’S A MONSTER!
The ele-star of Water for Elephants did not have the magical gentle training her owners claim. Shocking! Did I call it? Did I mother-loving call it?! People kept telling me, “Oh they had people on set to monitor the elephant’s treatment, no animals were harmed,” and I’m like BULLSHIT. And regardless of training methods, elephants should not be in movies! Simply having a wild animal in a movie is bad, even if you pay her in hugs and kisses. Elephants should be living out their lives in peace with other elephants taking baths and playing around, not doing “tricks” or “acting.”
Second, EXACTLY! This is how elephants are trained! I don’t care what happened on set, this is the reality of training elephants. Can you imagine that these ginormous animals actually want to do headstands? I really doubt gymnastics is a popular elective at the various elephant after-school programs. And just like with people, you don’t have to keep beating an animal to get it to submit, you just have to threaten the beatings again. You think Tai doesn’t remember the stuff on this tape when she’s “acting” on set? Yeah right. Electric shocks and bullhooks are not easy to forget.
Last time I posted a scary video, someone said maybe I should just write out what goes on in case they don’t want to see the actual footage. From Animal Defenders International:
- Elephants including Tai are repeatedly given electric shocks with hand held stun guns
- Tai cries out when being shocked into performing a headstand
- Elephants including Tai are beaten about the body and legs with bull hooks
- A baby elephant is hooked in the lip and cries out
- An elephant is pinned with bull hooks whilst her tusks are sawn down, close to the bone
Also from ADI, what you can do:
- Please contact ADI today and find out how you can speak up for Tai and all animals being abused in the entertainment industry. If you live in the UK, please contact email@example.com, if you live in the U.S. please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a Water for Elephants Letter Writing Pack.
- Boycott this film and tell your family and friends to take a stand against animal cruelty by only supporting films without animal actors.
- Leaflet moviegoers at a theater near you to educate them about the abuse of Tai and other performing animals. Contact ADI to order leaflets.
- Contact your local theater with a copy of the DVD we can provide you, and politely ask them to make the right choice and stop showing the film.
- Contact ADI for a letter writing pack with sample letters to Water for Elephants actors and movie makers, and sample letters to the editor to help you raise your voice for Tai and the other animals abused for entertainment.
- Write a letter to your local paper about Tai’s abuse and educate the public that animal suffering is never romantic and it is never entertainment. (Sample letters available in our letter writing pack.)
- Contact the Director and Producer and politely ask that they make Water for Elephants the last film they will use live animal actors. (Contacts and sample letters available in our letter writing pack.)
- Share the link to the video on your Facebook and other social networking sites, to spread the word to family and friends.
ADI has sent a copy of the footage to stars Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. We’ll see what they say. They better be PISSED! My dream is that they will totally buy Tai and the entire Have Trunk Will Travel herd and build them an awesome sanctuary in Hollywood where all the performing animals can retire! Right? What else?! They would feed them vegan cupcakes for dinner and Robert Pattinson would read them Good Night Moon every night! Right?! What else!? They would sleep on 900-count Egyptian cotton sheets on mattresses filled with dandelions! What else?!
Feeding baby elephants to inmates? What kind of fuckery is this? »
[Can’t see the video? Watch on Vegansaurus.com]
I’m posting the video above to illustrate what complicated and emotional animals elephants are. The video is about a poor little baby elephant that lost its family and is totally depressed. Elephants have strong feelings of mourning and loss and as sad as this baby is, I imagine it’s got to be at least that traumatic for an adult elephant to lose a calf.
Why am I talking about this? Because there is a proposition in Zimbabwe to cull baby elephants and feed them to prisoners. The world is going crazy!
Wildlife conservationists are not into this plan. From the Zimbabwe Independent:
Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force slammed the proposal, arguing that the move would result in the extinction of elephants and in the long result in the “killing” of the tourism industry.
He said: “This is the most dangerous thing that they will be doing if approved. One of the biggest foreign currency earners in the country is tourism. How then can we steal from our own heritage? Why are we selling our future heritage down the drain? We should be looking after these intelligent animals so that they are not killed. Government should actually be putting in harsh laws to protect these animals.”
Rodrigues said despite claims by authorities that there were 100,000 elephants in the country, the number had gone down to less than 35,000.
I don’t know shit about the Zimbabwe prison system and it sounds like it is not a good situation (that seems to be a theme in prison systems) but really? Baby elephants? There has got to be an alternative. Some reports are saying the prisoners haven’t had meat in four years—I haven’t had meat in 11 and I’m just fine! But seriously, I don’t feel bad for them, not for lack of meat that is (I generally feel bad for prisoners because I’m always worried they were innocent. Hurricane, guys, HURRICANE). You don’t need meat to reach any nutritional requirements prisoners are lacking. I feel like this really comes from some idea that people have a god-given right to have meat, like it’s abusive to deny people meat. That whole concept is ridiculous. There’s a lot of abuse that goes on in prisons but making people eat vegetarian is not one of them.
I don’t have a solution but come on, there has to be something else they can do! They could be trailblazers with some innovative sustainable farming set-up! Though according to the Independent, they don’t have enough money for prison uniforms so I don’t know if that’s feasible but it could be cool! And pay for itself in the long run! Maybe Amnesty International can step in or something! Just ANYTHING besides culling baby mother-loving elephants, please. For goodness’ sake.
Opening night of Water for Elephants—it’s time to educate the disgusting sea of humanity! Your help needed! »
Megan needs a break from the elephant beat so I’m stepping in because I think they’re fucking awesome, too. I’m just a worse and less-motivated human being than Megan. Ugh, I hate talking about my many failures as a human being. Let’s also just say I have a nice rack and a cool dog. Okay, even-stevens!
IDA is setting up leafletting events around the country for opening night of Water for Elephants. You should go for two reasons. 1) Megan already proved that it’s a terrible movie for ellies and it’s getting terrible reviews, anyway! Eff that noise!; and 2) You’ll already be at a theater you can go see Your Highness because it’s fucking in and Water for Elephants is fucking out! Or, see Rio (either sober with kids or high without kids or high with kids OMG YOU’RE A TERRIBLE PARENT)! Or, you know, you can read my movie previews over at SF Appeal and find out what I think about even more things! That’s right, I’ve got opinions on shit besides vegan stuff! Like movies! Plus, you should support me, you know I would totally give you a kidney, the least you can do is READ MY DAMN MOVIE PREVIEWS.
One more time with the real point of this whole post I am so very tired: Tomorrow night, do a solid for the ellies of the world by educating the masses! You’re the best! I’m taking off my top and shimmying in your direction!
Water for Elephants looks like some crazy elephant-exploiting bullshit »
As soon as I saw the commercial for Water for Elephants, in which Robert Pattinson pretends to care about animals, I cringed something awful. How pathetic is that picture above? The smirk on Pattinson’s face? The chain around the elephant’s foot? Good grief. And really? A live elephant in a movie? Still? COME ON! Even if this particular elephant lived a lavish life of ecstasy, captive elephants promote abuse in the industry, and are not OK. But spoiler alert: I’m not so sure this elephant lives a lavish life of ecstasy!
The elephant in the movie’s name is Tai. I look for information on her and it turns out she’s part of a whole elephant troupe, Have Trunk Will Travel: serving all your circus, movie and wedding needs! Charming. Reading an interview with the trainer, he’s like, “Tai has so much fun acting!” Sounds super. I’m sure it beats roaming the plains free with your family (I mean, as long as Go Daddy isn’t on vacation).
But wait! There’s more! Turns out, Have Trunk Will Travel is BFF with notorious elephant-abusers the Ringling Brothers and even testified for them in the court case against Ringling not too far back. Because I am so dedicated, I read the crazy-ass transcript from their testimony for you and it is NUTSO.
The witness, Kari Johnson, who runs Have Trunk Will Travel with her husband Gary, is asked all these questions about elephants and her answers are totally bizarro. My absolute favorite part is when she’s testifying about the bullhook—or “guide” as she calls it—and the judge is like, “um, WTF?” and she’s all like, “uh…”:
THE COURT: Is the guide designed to penetrate the skin?
THE WITNESS: It can; it shouldn’t.
Q: And is the guide intended to cause pain to an elephant?
Q: In your experience, do elephants fear the guide?
Q: The guide can penetrate the skin though?
Q: And cause bleeding?
A: Yes, it can.
Q: That is not uncommon?
A: It’s—it’s—it shouldn’t be common, but it happens, yes.
Q: All right. I’m talking about that point, though. That point—does it have the potential of harming an elephant, that point?
A: I am sure it would have the potential, but that’s not what it is for. It’s—
Q: Why is it there, then?
Johnson then tells the judge that the elephant’s skin is so thick, it wouldn’t feel anything duller than the pointed hook. Then of course in the cross-examination, she states that elephants are super-sensitive and could feel a fly on their skin. Thanks, elephant queen, you are really clearing things up. The best part about these statements is that they are supposed to be in favor of Ringling. If you want a really good time, read the cross examination [pdf]. That shit is a bit brutal.
These people are disgusting. They actually fight for rights to exploit elephants. They are totally active in the animal incarceration community: “When there’s—well, any sort of elephant legislation, I go to wherever that might be, whatever state, or whatever town or city in California, wherever it might be, and advocate basically to be able to use the guides and tethers, and be able to manage the elephants in free contact like we do,” says Kari. Mind you, “be able to manage the elephants in free contact like we do” means BULLHOOK. Wow.
I’ve never read the book the movie is based on because I’m allergic to reading but it’s my understanding that the subplot is all about the suffering of this elephant in the circus. So I guess Tai is perfect for the role? Apparently Have Trunk Will Travel is really into method acting! Good morning, irony:
Q: As part of your husbandry expertise, have you provided food and water to elephants?
Q: Is it necessary for elephants to have free access to water throughout the day?
The moral of this story is: boycott this terrible movie and tell your friends and family to do the same. If you gotta see a movie about elephants (I know you!), check out The Elephant in the Living Room instead. Or even better, donate your ticket money to the The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Now, let’s look at the awesome elephants who live there and for the first time today, be happy.
OK I swear this is my last Anne post—for the time being. BUT LOOK AT THIS PICTURE. It’s Anne having fun in her new digs! If that doesn’t brighten your day, you have no heart and I pity your current and/or future spouses. Though I’d pity them anyway since marriage is a total joke and a failed institution. DUDE, I’m TOTALLY KIDDING. Let’s get married and adopt young children! In pairs. I want a nice set.
She’s in her 40-ton sand pit in the picture above and her enclosure is 13 acres. She’s also got a shallow pond! And lots of stuff to eat! According to the Daily Mail, “Yesterday, she wolfed down two bales of hay, a small mountain of grain, dozens of apples, countless bananas (she prefers them lightly browned), bags of carrots and the odd handful of wine gums, all washed down with gallons of water—and still had room for her favourite snack of banana or jam sandwiches, on brown.” Jam sandwiches! Adorbs!
The facility she’s at, Longleat, now wants to become the U.K.’s first elephant sanctuary: “Plans are afoot to build a custom-made elephant enclosure, with swimming pool, central heating, wading area, enormous sandpit, proper fencing and umpteen acres that would become the first port of call in the future for distressed elephants from Europe and further afield to recuperate after appalling treatment.” That’s DOPE. They are thinking they could house six elephants at a time; some for rehab before going to the bigger sanctuaries in the U.S. and some as permanent residents—e.g. BFFs for Anne!
These Longleat people are crazy and hilarious: “We need to stimulate her and make sure she isn’t bored. But we mustn’t forget that she’s an old lady. And just like any old lady, some days she’ll be in the mood to go out and charge round the shops, and others she’ll want to put her feet up and watch Loose Women on telly.” Ha! Wacky Brits. If you want to help build this new sanctuary by donating CASH MONEY, you can go to the Longleat site and click to donate from there. They are saying the planned accommodations will cost £1 million sterling to build—what kind of elephant enclosure does that buy?! I know the GBP dominate the currency exchange but I would think it would cost like 10 times that amount. BUT! I’m not an elephant-sanctuary-building-mathematician so what do I know! But you’d think an elephant sanctuary would cost more than a one-bedroom in Manhattan.
More good news: Anne arrives at new home, U.K. may ban live animals in circuses! »
Here’s a picture of Anne from the Daily Mail being greeted at her new home at Longleat Safari Park! She has a six-acre enclosure there, which is a far cry from the miles and miles wild elephants usually roam, but her arthritis tells me maybe that’s OK.
I am still so impressed by how quickly the people in the U.K. reacted to Anne’s terrible situation, and how quickly she was moved to a brand new home. Amazing. What’s more, it looks like Britain will ban live animals in circuses (dead ones, I presume, are totally OK). The ban hasn’t happened yet but Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman is “minded” to pass the ban. The public shock of Anne’s treatment is the catalyst: “The tragic plight of Anne once again mobilised the people. From protesting on the streets, to lobbying MPs, the past week has been filled with cries for a ban.” AWESOME! I’m so jealous! Maybe we can just get the Brits over here and they can care about all the captive animals in the United States.