Just as We Thought We Were Winning

This year has challenged and provoked our innermost beliefs of what we used to think was acceptable. I myself, was a youngster captivated by the […]

This year has challenged and provoked our innermost beliefs of what we used to think was acceptable. I myself, was a youngster captivated by the dream of swimming with dolphins, and to me sea parks seemed the only opportunity. The upcoming roar of light on the situation made me incredibly glad that such a dream was never fulfilled.

To me what is the most sickening is how easily the mind can be swayed by the bright lights of ‘fun’ pictures and also for how long. Publicity being much like fashion, the success depending on the time and mood of a few individuals, could be the reason it took so long for us to come to terms with this cruelty.

A sense of satisfaction may diffuse over us that we now know the truth, and with customers decreasing yearly to such parks we may feel like we are winning, but are we? The fact it took 50 years of the first SeaWorld opening to figure out that keeping dolphins and whales in what looks like a paddling pool to them is unacceptable, makes us wonder what else we are missing.

Riding elephants still appears acceptable. The elephant is large so it must be strong enough to support your weight easily, the elephant is social and so having human interaction must be continuous entertainment for it and the elephant likes to roam so by riding it must give it endless opportunities to do so. Even now we make up excuses or don’t bother to ask details to realise the true cruelty which occurs before our eyes.

To ride elephants means to train them. First the young elephant is taken from its mother. Second the elephant is put in a cage or a hole in the ground. Third the elephant is beaten, it is starved and it is deprived of sleep.

This training is known as ‘the crush’ and is focused on ‘the separation of the spirit of an elephant from its body’. All tamed elephants will have gone through the process, those in circuses, those which do tricks, and those that you ride. The purpose is to frighten the elephant to the point that the trainer has complete control over it; piercing with bull-hooks throughout the elephant’s life reinstates this fear.

Now that the elephant is in continual fear of its trainer it can be rode. But a sigh of relief cannot be taken. Whilst the elephant is large and strong, its spine has surprisingly not been adapted to support the weight of humans. Carrying people can lead to permanent spinal injuries and the chair on top to give us ultimate luxury causes blisters which get infected.

We know that elephants are intelligent, but do not be fooled to think our presence can somewhat remedy that of the companionship from the same species. Trekking camps brings with it a lonely confinement, an added blow to these social creatures. Lack of food and water in these camps only furthers the experience and reports of elephants swaying and pacing reveals the psychological stress they are under.

We have not beaten our own battle of animal cruelty, in fact we have not come close. Sea parks are still open, elephants are still being rode and our obliviousness to world is still apparent. Empathy is one emotion allowing us to reach out, but bravery really is a more important one. Being brave to enquire, being brave not to overlook and ultimately being brave to do something when it becomes necessary.

About Julia Galbenu

Studying Biology at Oxford University.