When the stick doesn’t work, maybe the carrot will do the trick.
In this case, the stick would be laws prohibiting and punishing the abuse of elephants. The carrot would be the $10,000 reward that an animal protection group has announced it will give in return for information about elephants mistreated in the film or TV industry.
“Elephants are wild animals, not actors, and the barbaric techniques routinely used to force elephants to learn tricks can qualify as abuse under California law,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) Executive Director Stephen Wells in a media release today. “That’s why ALDF is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone—including actors, camera operators, make-up artists, and editors—who has witnessed mistreatment of elephants on set first-hand or can otherwise provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of elephant abusers.”
Animal advocates around the world expressed outrage earlier this year over a video from Animal Defenders International that allegedly showed the elephant Tai, who appeared in the movie Water for Elephants, being beaten with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods by the elephant rental company Have Trunk Will Travel during a training session.
The one-year statute of limitations for this type of animal cruelty means that perpetrators in the video cannot be prosecuted under California law, according to ALDF. But the group is concerned that “the use of bullhooks, electrical shocks and other painful training techniques appear to be standard practice in elephant training.”
Through ads online and in trade publications, ALDF will target entertainment industry workers in publicizing the $10,000 reward and in assuring anonymity for whistleblowers.
“Note that what might look like standard training techniques can qualify as abuse,” the group advises. “If you have witnessed any mistreatment of an elephant on set that you suspect might be abusive, please contact ALDF at 707-795-2533, x1035, or at ElephantAbuse@aldf.org. You may remain anonymous.”
Wells added, “The glamour of the big screen and television productions belies the suffering of elephants forced to perform on Hollywood sets.”
According to some reports, Tai the elephant is also used in Zookeeper, a new film starring Kevin James set for release this summer.
Have Trunk Will Travel representatives were not immediately available for comment at the time of this article post.
APOLOGIES TO HAVE TRUNK WILL TRAVEL. The previous statement should have read as follows: Have Trunk Will Travel representatives were contacted for comment approximately one hour after this article was posted [not prior to the post as was previously implied]. Please check this page again for possible comment from Have Trunk Will Travel.
For more information contact Animal Legal Defense Fund.
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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris (a.k.a. Kathryn Makris) has written 18 books for major publishers and hundreds of articles for publications such as National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Petside.com, and two regional news wire services.
A cofounder of AnimalBeat.org, she holds a B.A. in Environmental Science Studies and a lifelong interest in animal issues.
Among her books are Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know about Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press), coauthored with Shelley Frost, and The Eco-Kids, a series of novels for tweens (Avon Books).
Her story “Small Change” placed as a finalist in The Bark magazine’s short fiction contest and appeared in the November 2010 issue.
She may be reached at email@example.com
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