Circus animals’ spirit broken by ‘training’

Sylven Watson (Herald, 5/22, Circus animals are well-trained, cared for) wrote: “… USDA is charged with overseeing…living conditions of these highly educated animals, whether on the road or at home in the offseason. … USDA regularly inspects … living conditions of … animals to make sure regulations are followed.”

Watson doesn’t know or ignores “‘USDA fines Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus over treatment of animals’ (11/29/11, Leigh Remizowski, CNN), alleging (it) systematically abuses and exploits elephants. U.S. Agriculture Department slapped the parent company of the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ with a record penalty for animal rights violations. Feld Entertainment Inc … agreed to pay $270,000 for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act … from June 2007 to August 2011.

“‘This settlement sends a … message to the public and to (animal exhibitors) that USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act,’ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.”

Watson asserts: “‘Bull hooks’…indicate to the elephant which direction to turn and whether to stop or go (and) are not a torture implement. Can anyone seriously imagine a 4- to 6-ton animal doing anything it doesn’t want to do?”

My daughters produced the 2011 award-winning documentary, “One Lucky Elephant” ( seen globally by hundreds of thousands, which debuted on OWN’s television network, and had screenings and workshops sponsored by U.S. State Department.

Many animal workers previously silent emerged with witness reports of young animal (not just elephants) training abuses. Once animals’ spirits are broken with “bull hooks,” etc., it’s not hard to “seriously imagine” virtually any “4-to-6-ton” animal no longer having the will to do what it once wanted.

Watson inexplicably states: “In order for an animal to perform a ‘behavior,’ first it must be shown how, thus extinguishing any confusion.” Many trainers don’t merely “show how” – they hold animals hostage until animals surrender.

Knowing Watson only from the letter, I allege it’s from someone in mega-denial and “confusion” about irreversible harm done to perhaps all or most Watson-trained animals during 12 years.

Gandhi wrote: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Susan Franzheim


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