Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society’s Leslie Harris | Connecting Point | Mar. 18, 2015


RINGLING BROTHERS – BARNUM &
BAILEY CIRCUS ANNOUNCED RECENTLY IT’LL PHASE OUT THE ELEPHANT
PERFORMANCES, THEY HAVE BEEN A STAPLE AND SYMBOL OF THEIR SHOWS
FOR A CENTURY OR MORE. IT’S SOMETHING ANIMAL RIGHTS
SUPPORTERS HAVE WANTED FOR YEARS.
WE ASKED LESLIE HARRIS TO COME IN AND SHARE HER THOUGHTS ON THE
CIRCUS’ DECISION.>>EVEN THOUGH WE DO NOT SHELTER
ELEPHANTS, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS A GREAT AMOUNT OF CHEERING AND
JUBILATION IN THE ANIMAL WELFARE WORLD WHEN RINGLING BROTHERS
MADE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. PART OF THAT IS THIS HAS BEEN A
LONG TIME COMING. ANIMAL ACTIVISTS, PEOPLE WHO
CARE ABOUT ANIMALS, ALL SPECTRUMS OF THE ANIMAL RIGHTS,
FROM EXTREME ANIMAL RIGHTS FOLKS TO ANIMAL WELFARE AND PEOPLE WHO
HAVE BORNE WITNESS TO THE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS AND WILD
ANIMALS IN PERFORMING ACTS HAVE BANDED TOGETHER OVER TIME AND
REALLY WORKED TO PUT PUBLIC PRESSURE ON ORGANIZATIONS LIKE
RINGLING BROTHERS TO STOP HAVING ELEPHANTS.
THERE WAS A GREAT AMOUNT OF CHEERING BECAUSE IT WAS A TRULY
MONUMENTAL VICTORY. RINGLING BROTHERS IS NOT THE
ONLY CIRCUS THAT USES ELEPHANTS, IT IS THE BIGGEST AND BEST
KNOWN.>>THEY WILL PHASE OUT THE USE
OF ELEPHANTS BECAUSE THE PUBLIC IS NO LONGER INTERESTED.
THERE’S A LOT OF PUBLIC PRAYER TO DISCONTINUE THE USE OF
ELEPHANTS IN PERFORMING ACTS. ONE OF THE THINGS THE PUBLIC WAS
ABLE TO DO WAS PASS ENOUGH LEGISLATION AND ENOUGH
JURISDICTIONS TO MAKE IT ECONOMICALLY DIFFICULT FOR
RINGLING BROTHERS TO STRING TOGETHER A SERIES OF SHOWS THAT
INCLUDED ELEPHANTS. YOU CAN’T GO TO BRAINTREE,
MASSACHUSETTS, AND PUT ON AN ELEPHANT ACT.
YOU CAN’T GO TO STANFORD, CONNECT, BURLINGTON, VERMONT,
ALL OF THESE TOWNS AND JURISDICTIONS AROUND THE UNITED
STATES HAVE MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR EITHER CIRCUSES OR WILD
ANIMAL ACTS OR ANY SHOW THAT USES THE TYPES OF — SOME WOULD
CALL THEM ELEMENTS OF TORTURE, BUT LIKE BULL WHIPS OR ELECTRIC
SHOCKS TO PROD. TO OUTLAW THOSE THINGS PUTS
PRESSURE ON THE PEOPLE WHO PURCHASE VAY ANIMALS AS
ENTERTAIN. I THINK IT’S A HUGE VICTIM FOR
PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT ANIMALS.>>THERE ARE THOSE WHO WOULD
SAY, LOOK, WE CARE FOR THEM WELL, THEY ARE OUR MEAT AND
POTATOES. THEY ARE PART OF WHAT WE DO.
AND THERE ALSO HAVE BEEN THOSE WHO HAVE SAID, THE ANIMALS ARE
PROTECTED IN THE SENSE THAT IN THE WILD CERTAINLY THEY FACE
NATURAL FRAMERS EVERY DAY, NATURAL PREDATORS IN WHAT WOULD
BE THEIR NORMAL LIFE AND HABITAT.
THEY WOULD FACE DISEASE THAT WOULD NOT BE TREATED THERE.
HERE IT PRESUMABLY WOULD BE CAUGHT AND TREATED I IN THE SIR
DID YOU SAY OR THE ZOO.>>WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE
ARGUMENTS.>>SO THEY PROBABLY AREN’T
GETTING KILLED BY A LION WHILE THEY ARE IN THE ZOO OR THE
CIRCUS. BUT THE REALITY IS THE LIFE SPAN
OF AN ELEPHANT IN CAPTIVITY IS DECADES SHORTER THAN THE LIFE
SPAN OF AN ELEPHANT IN THE WILD. ELEPHANTS CAN LIVE 70 YEARS OR
MORE IN THE WILD. THE AVERAGE LIFE IN CAPTIVITY IS
30 YEARS OR LESS. ELEPHANTS AS SPECIES ARE
INCREDIBLE — THEY HAVE AN INCREDIBLE LIFE OUTSIDE OF
CAPTIVITY. THEY ARE VERY SOCIAL, THEY HAVE
FAMILY GROUPS. FEMALE ELEPHANTS STAY WITH THEIR
MOTHERS THEIR ENTIRE LIVES IN THE HERDS.
MALE ELEPHANTS LEAVE THEIR MOTHERS AT AROUND 14 YEARS OF
AGE. IN CIRCUSES BABIES ARE TAKEN
FROM THEIR MOTHERS AT THREE YEARS OF AGE.
ELEPHANTS IN THE WILD WALK 30 MILES A DAY.
YOU CAN SEE IN VIDEOS OF ANIMALS.
ELEPHANTS ARE IN TRAVELING SHOWS ARE CONFINED TO TRAIN CARS OR
TRUCKS OR STANDING OUTSIDE ON CHAINS ALL DAY AND THAT’S ALL
THEY DO UNTIL THEY ARE ASKED TO PERFORM FOR A FEW MINUTES.
IT’S
NOT TRUE THAT THEIR LIVES ARE BETTER PERFORMING THAN THEY
ARE IN THE WILD. AN ORGANIZATION THAT’S REALLY
INTERESTED IN PRESERVING ANIMALS IN THE WILD AND THEIR QUALITY OF
LIFE WOULD BE MORE INTERESTED IN CONSERVATION OF LAND AND
STOPPING POACHING AND DOING THE OTHER THINGS THAT ACTUALLY
PRESERVE ELEPHANTS AND OTHER SPECIES IN THE WILD HABITAT.
I THINK IT’S DISINGENUOUS TO SAY THEIR LIVES ARE BETTER WITH US
THAN THEY ARE IN THE WILD.>>WE HAVE A LITTLE BETTER
BUDGETS, ZOOS ARE TRYING TO HAVE NATURAL SETTINGS.
I WAS IN PHILADELPHIA OR BALTIMORE AND THEY HAVE AN
AFRICAN PLAIN MORE OR LESS FOR THE LIONS.
LITERALLY THEY DON’T SEE FENCES ALTHOUGH THEY ARE HELD WITHIN.
BUT THEY STILL DON’T HAVE THE LARGE AREA TO ROAM THAT I
PRESUME THEY WOULD IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT.
BUT IS THAT SOMETHING BETTER? OR ARE WE STILL —
>>IT’S BETTER THAN A CAGE, RIGHT?
IT’S CERTAINLY BETTER THAN A CAGE WHERE THEY CAN ONLY PACE
BACK AND FORTH OR LIE ON CEMENT. THEY ARE CERTAINLY PREFERRABLE
TO THE ROADSIDE PARK PRIVATE ZOO WHERE THEY ARE KEPT BEHIND CHAIN
LINK OR IN LITTLE TINY CAGES, AT THE MERCY OF PEOPLE WHO ARE
NEARBY. I THINK SOME OF THOSE ANIMALS
HAVE NEVER KNOWN THE WILD. THEY HAVE BEEN BORN AND BRED IN
CAPTIVITY. IT’S ONE OF THOSE CONUNDRUMS
THAT WE AS A SPECIES HAS TO IRON OUT IS OUR BEHAVIOR TOWARDS
OTHER SPECIES. ARE WE PROVIDING ADEQUATE
ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICH MINUTE, AND ENOUGH ABILITY TO EXERCISE THEIR
NORMAL AND NATURAL BEHAVIORS. I WOULD ARGUE THAT A ZOO THAT
CAN’T PROVIDE THAT FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF ITS RESIDENTS
SHOULD PROBABLY NOT HAVE THEM. I THINK IF YOU WERE ABLE TO
EXPAND TO A LARGE PARKINGS SOMETIMES SOMEBODY COMING
THROUGH CAN’T EVEN SEE THE ANIMALS BECAUSE THEY HAVE
DECIDED TO GO AWAY FROM THE VISITORS FOR A WHILE, IT MIGHT
BE DISAPPOINTING TO THE PEOPLE COMING BUT CERTAINLY MAKES THE
ANIMAL FEEL BETTER. THERE’S A LOT OF DEBATE STILL
CIRCLING AROUND THAT. THE RINGLING BROTHERS DECISION
IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND I THINK IT’LL HAVE AN IMPACT
ACROSS THE BOARD.>>>ABOUT A MINUTE OR SO LEFT.
STILL ABOUT PROTECTING AND TAKING CARE OF ANIMALS, EASTER,
SPRINGTIME, LITTLE RABBITS AND BABY CHICKS AND BABY DUCKS GIVEN
AT PETS AROUND EASTER TIME. THEY ARE SO FRAGILE, SOMETHING
THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED OR VERY CAREFULLY CONSIDERED?
>>I THINK VERY CAREFULLY CONSIDERED.
THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO KEEP BACKYARD CHICKENS, OR
KEEPING RABBITS AS HOUSE PETS. I DON’T THINK EITHER IS
ESPECIALLY A PET FOR CHILDREN. REMEMBER THAT ANIMAL SHELTERS IN
YOUR COMMUNITY HAVE A LOT OF RABBITS FOR ADOPTION AT ALL
TIMES. THEY ARE ALREADY SPAYED OR
UNDERSTOOD NEUTERED AND WE CAN TALK TO YOU ABOUT HOW TO KEEP
THEM SAFELY WITH CHILDREN. MAYBE A CAT OR A DOG WOULD BE
BETTER. OR MAYBE A ENGINEER BILL WHICH O
HAVE FOR ADOPTION. TALKING ABOUT ELEPHANTS AND
LIONS AND MAKING SURE THEY HAVE AN ENVIRONMENT TO KEEP THEM
SAFE, AND YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN DO THAT, AS WELL.
TALK ABOUT PROVIDING ADEQUATE HOUSING AND CARE FOR AN ANIMAL
BEFORE BRINGING HIM ON TO YOUR HOME.
>>LESLIE HARRIS FROM DAKIN PIONEER VALLEY HUMANE SOCIETY,
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.>>THANK YOU.

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