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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/10/09

Lily Tomlin Speaks out for the Elephants

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Message Suzana Megles

As a former elementary school teacher who sadly was unaware of animal
suffering when I taught school - if I could -I would go back and tell the children not to attend any zoos or circuses which had elephants.  There probably would be a good chance that if I did this today, some irate parent would tell the principal that I was overstepping my authority.  How sad- if true that compassion cannot be taught in our schools.

Most of the animals in captivity do suffer in these two venues, but it is believed that the elephants suffer more than the other animals.  I think Care2's petition says it so well with the introduction to their petition:  "Baby elephantsare ripped away from their mothers and forced into a life of abuse and humiliation that is reinforced with bullhooks, whips, and electric prods."

How sad that the petition says that Ringling Bros. Circus elephants are
scheduled to appear at Coney Island, New York this summer.  New York City officials announced that Taconic Investments has donated land for Ringling Bros. which should help save the "suffering" amusement district. 

How nice - the "suffering" amusement district needs to be saved by causing suffering to the elephants -and they do suffer.  I would advise anyone going East on vacation to skip Coney Island and instead visit "The Teardrop Monument"on the Jersey shore.   How many people know that this monument was given to America by the Russian people in response to their sorrow surrounding the tragedy of 9/11?  I think the Media dropped the ball on this one.

I was saddened to read an account of one elephant who died on a street corner in Cleveland in the 40's.  She was being featured for a circus promotion.  She had been tethered on a downtown corner on a very hot day in summer without shade or shelter of any kind.  To my knowledge, she probably wasn't hosed down all day or even given water to drink as the crowds milled around her in fascination with their cold drinks.   She would not see another dawn.  Perhaps it was the best thing that could have happened to her.  She would no longer suffer
from the lack of concern of her handlers and the uncaring crowd. 

This happened a long time ago you say - things are better today.  Well, let's fast forward to August 1994.  You might recall the story of Tyke which made thenews.  During a Circus International performance in Hawaii she crushed to death her trainer who had been accused of elephant abuse in the 80's.  We seem to be more tolerant and understanding of people in abusive situations who perform cruel acts in retaliation but can't figure out why animals behave likewise in similar circumstances.  It's really quite simple - she was an abused
animal and finally could take no more and lashed out at her abuser. 

On that day Tyke bolted from the arena and raged through downtown Kakaako. Police fired 86 shots in their pursuit, and Tyke eventually collapsed from her wounds.  The photographer who took the picture of this poor beautiful creature struggling to make a statement to man who abused her for so long wrote:

"Not one day goes by that I don't think of that poor elephant.  At the end she could only lift herself on her front feet and swing her trunk, pathetically trying to ward off the bullets.  It was the sickest thing I've ever seen and I've been shooting news for over 20 years."  

On June 20th -In Defense of Animals e-mailed us a message - "Lily Tomlin Wants YOU to Participate in IDA"s International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos."  Ms. Tomlin (actress and activist) has called for "mammoth changes" for elephants in zoos.

She said "Elephants were never meant to live in confinement of small urban zoos, where they are suffering terribly every day.  That's why I'm urging everyone to get involved in the first International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos on June 20th and help bring about the mammoth changes that elephants so desperately need.  I don't think anyone in their right mind would think a zoo display provides enough space for these giants of the earth.  But if the public is informed, they will raise an outcry and demand change.  It's time to stop the destructive practice of keeping elephants in zoos."

I couldn't agree with you more, Ms.Tomlin, and thank you for speaking for those who cannot.  I think many of us don't want to see them in circuses either.

IDA has listed the What, the When, and the Where:

What: Many demonstrations, around the world, on behalf of elephants suffering in zoos.
When: Saturday, June 20

Where: Zoos all around the world.  Events are already scheduled in California,
Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas,Washingon, and internationally in Australia, Canada, France, Spain, and Thailand.

Anyone wanting to help arrange an event or to volunteer with an already-scheduled event please e-mail

Thinking of elephants, I am reminded of a happy ending for some of them who were lucky enough to retire to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.  Carol Buckley had been performing with her elephant Tarra in amusement parks and circuses for years when she began to realize that this was no life for either her or Tarra.  So in 1995 she and her partner Scott Blaize bought 800 acres of rolling farm land in Tennessee and started an elephant sanctuary.  It is a virtual
"heaven" for Tarra, Barbara, and Jenny.  (I wrote this in my homespun book in 2003.  There are probably many more lucky elephants there now.)  

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
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