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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

POLL: Should elephants be a part of the circus?

UPDATE 2/19: A zebra from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus got free in downtown Atlanta this afternoon and was eventually caught between lanes of traffic on the Downtown Connector. Here’s the story: “Circus zebra leads police on wild chase.” PETA has asked for an investigation into the zebra escape.
ELEPHANT LUNCH (Small)

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants dined on fruits and bread in Centennial Olympic Park in 2006. Every time the circus comes to town, it renews the animal welfare discussion. AJC file photo

Two animal rights groups contacted Mayor Kasim Reed this week to ask him to keep elephants away from Atlanta when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus opens its show at Philips Arena today.

From the AJC story:

Captive Animals Rescue and Enforcement wrote a letter to Reed dated Wednesday with the request. They say the elephant ran amok during a pre-show last week in Columbia, S.C. and endangered about 100 spectators. The organization wrote it “strongly suspect that she was trying to escape from the abuse that commonly takes place backstage at circuses.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is similarly concerned.

In the letter, they pointed out an incident that occurred Feb. 6 in Columbia, S.C., when an elephant in Ringling Bros.’ “Zing, Zang, Zoom” show took a wrong turn and knocked down the arena’s prop door. (”Zing, Zang, Zoom” is the show opening in Atlanta today.)

From the Columbia State newspaper:

About 100 spectators on the floor watching the pre-show saw the elephant break through the door toward them and rumble around the performance area, just a few feet away. Most people scurried away quickly, while others thought it was part of the show and stayed put.

No one was hurt in the incident, and the female elephant was quickly enticed back to where she was supposed to be, Drake said.

PETA had recently placed a statue to protest circus elephants in Woodruff Park, too.

Should elephants perform in circuses?

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This question comes up every time the circus comes to town. (There are three circuses in Atlanta this month. Two of them, Ringling and UniverSoul, have elephants and other exotic animals. Big Apple Circus does not.) The debate isn’t limited to elephants, but they’re the apex of it, perhaps because they are so smart, so social and so unusually magnificent. An elephant in the room, literally, is an 8,000 pound signal that you’re experiencing something unique.

“Zing, Zang, Zoom” includes 11 Asian elephants. When I talked with ringmaster Alex Ramon, a relative circus newbie, he said his up-close look at their lives showed him that they know they’re in show business, and they’re used to being pampered: “In order for them to perform this many shows, they can’t be sick, there can’t be malnutrition. I was shocked how well they were taken care of. Ringling Bros. has the money to take care of their animals. … If it’s your personal feeling that animals shouldn’t be performing, that’s your feeling, but that has nothing to do with the care. The care for the elephants is top of the line.”

The circus thrilled me as a kid. I loved the elephants, and the trapeze artists, the horses and the cotton candy. For a 4-year-old, that day held no shortage of spectacle. When I remember it now, I remember joy.

I have clearer memories of Wanda and Winky, the elephants at the Detroit Zoo. White painted elephant tracks on the asphalt led to the exhibit. Their huge habitat was in clear view of visitors, and they were the highlight of many visits over many years.

My most recent elephant experience was in 2008, when I spent several hours in and around the elephant habitat at Zoo Atlanta, detailing how they baby-proofed for a calf they expected to be born in 2009.

Here’s how those stories end:

The Detroit Zoo moved its elephants to a refuge in California in 2005, and has no plans to replace them. It was a proactive decision,  and they offer a  thoughtful, detailed explanation of why they will no longer keep elephants. It comes down to this: even with  modern husbandry techniques that doesn’t involve chains or hooks, and plenty of research into a new habitat, they don’t feel they can provide what Asian elephants need to be healthy and happy. Wanda still lives in California. Winky was euthanized in 2008 at age 56.

Dottie, the pregnant African elephant at Zoo Atlanta, died suddenly in 2008 during a bout of acute pneumonia. She was 26, and in the third trimester of her pregnancy. Elephants Tara and Kelly remain at the zoo.

I’ve never before tallied up the elephants I’ve spent hours and days with, but even as I’m typing this, their fates weigh on me. I understand that it’s amazing to see such larger-than-life creatures in your city, in the heart of such spectacle. I just don’t think I can find joy in it anymore.

What do you think? Should elephants be a part of the circus? Should Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed or other leaders weigh in on elephant appearances in the city? Why or why not?

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87 comments Add your comment

Sue

February 25th, 2010
7:12 pm

Thanks for your explanation. My IP is not shared and I have never had this happen in other polls I have voted in. Most people don’t post comments, this was an exception, so you are not getting a good representation on this subject if the poll is not taking the YES votes.

Jamie Gumbrecht

February 25th, 2010
12:18 pm

Hi Sue, just to be clear: this poll, like all others on AJC blogs, is not scientific. It’s a tool for people to register their opinions, not a tool we’d use to report a story. It won’t appear on the news.

As I explained earlier to Genny, the poll is not rigged to support a certain side. It is set up, though, to accept only one vote per IP address.

Here’s the explanation I received when I submitted a ticket to our tech folks, in case there was a problem with it:

1. Some IP addresses are actually shared. Anyone who uses multiple
computers in a household with DSL or Cable Modem are sharing a single IP
address. This is often the case in offices, hotels, and anyplace people
might be sharing WiFi, like a coffeehouse.

2. We generally use a cookie to also track individual poll
responses from the same IP address. However, if cookies are blocked,
this would cause an issue for the poll tool.

This could be affecting your ability to vote, but it’s possible they’re affecting many people. That’s also why we like to keep the comments open — we can have a conversation about it here.

Thanks!

Eye's wide open

February 25th, 2010
11:29 am

Don’t take my words either, look for yourself, you be the judge. This link has official Court transcripts and videos available for the public to view: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/a1a6a_courtdocuments.php When Judge Sullivan dismissed the case on the grounds it lacked legal standing, that was the end of the trial, but all the evidence that was submitted to the Court clearly shows they beat and torture these Elephants with a Bullhook, on the videos You can see it with Your own eyes, You can read Ringling’s own medical records, these elephants suffer with constant foot disease from being chained for hours on end, they are treated with pain medication so that they can continue to perform in all those Shows, and one Elephant had a injury in her anus when a Ringling handler hooked her with that sharp bullhook. I know extreme abuse when I see it. All I ask is, You look at it for Yourself.

Sue

February 25th, 2010
11:14 am

This poll is fixed!! I have never been to this site and I voted Yes, I like seeing Elepphants at the circus and it wouldn’t take my vote. I askd a friend to vote to see what happens and the same thing, it would not take her vote. Then she voted No I don’t like ….and it recorded her vote. I guess you don’t really want to know how most people feel. I hope I don’t hear on the results of your ‘poll’ on the news.

Eye's wide open

February 25th, 2010
6:58 am

So Lisa after reading your comparisons you think it is OK for your Boss to use something that looks like Fireplace poker to hit, stab and hook you until you bleed, leaving open wounds. Your boss cares about you so much they will cover up your wounds and send you out to greet the public after all you are there to do your job. I do hope you are still smiling at this point. Oh! I forgot to mention when you work day is over your legs are chained to a concrete floor and you get to stay there until it is time to go back to work. Wow, you are so lucky to be living the great life.
For those who want to know the truth, Ringling’s old and young elephants all suffer from a slow but deadly foot disease, caused by being chained on concrete floors or in a train car in their own waste every day of their lives. Ringling’s own medical records show this to be true. Folks these records and other information are on the Internet, you can read them for yourself, don’t take Lisa’s word for it.

Jamie Gumbrecht

February 24th, 2010
8:37 pm

I’ve noticed several commenters bring up the recent lawsuit involving animal care and Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Los Angeles Times pulled together a lot of coverage of the trial as it progressed, and it ended in late December, when a federal judge ruled a former Ringling employee and the Animal Protection Institute did not have legal standing to sue the circus. You can see more here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/12/judge-rules-in-favor-of-ringling-bros-in-case-alleging-abuse-of-circus-elephants.html

Lisa

February 24th, 2010
8:15 pm

Jane – live in a cage and perform for other’s amusement – most of us do this every day – it’s called a 9-5 job (I’m only partially joking…) should we go “stomp” our bosses? Do we really have a choice? (gotta pay the bills….) It’s been in court before – and thrown out – Ringling Bros. takes excellent care of their animals. They have to be happy and healthy to appear in public and perform.

Jamie Gumbrecht

February 24th, 2010
4:34 pm

Genny, here’s the explanation I got from our tech people:

1. Some IP addresses are actually shared. Anyone who uses multiple
computers in a household with DSL or Cable Modem are sharing a single IP
address. This is often the case in offices, hotels, and anyplace people
might be sharing WiFi, like a coffeehouse.

2. We generally use a cookie to also track individual poll
responses from the same IP address. However, if cookies are blocked,
this would cause an issue for the poll tool.

Eye's wide open

February 24th, 2010
4:29 pm

For anyone who thinks Ringling’s elephants are well:
3-16, 2007: A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation captive wildlife inspection report noted that
Ringling’s breeding compound in Polk City, which housed 30 elephants, was still under a tuberculosis watch.
9-5, 2006: Two elephants at Ringling’s Polk City, Florida, breeding facility tested positive for TB, the human strain of tuberculosis that can pass from elephant to human, and three female elephants were pulled out of the traveling units because they had been exposed to at least one of the infected elephants.
9- 22, 2005: A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission captive wildlife inspection report noted that four out of eight elephants (Siam, India, Tilly, and Prince) housed at Ringling’s Williston facility tested positive for tuberculosis in 2001.
9-7, 2005: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to dispose of expired and undated tuberculosis drugs. The inspector also indicated that Ringling transported an elephant named Siam from the Williston facility to the breeding compound. Ringling’s tuberculosis-infected elephants are kept at Williston. Siam tested positive for tuberculosis in 1999.
10- 9, 2004: A 44-year-old Asian elephant named Roma was euthanized because of osteoarthritis.* A necropsy revealed that Roma had tuberculosis.

Genny

February 24th, 2010
3:44 pm

Nobody uses my computer except me – I’m IT for my IP address.

There is a “problem” with the poll. I’m not the only person getting the message that we already voted. You should scrap the whole poll and start over, so that all of the YES votes get counted – you will learn more about what people really think that way.

Jamie posted:
“Genny, the poll is not rigged to boost certain answers. It is set up so that there can be only one vote per IP address. Is it possible that someone has already voted while using the computer that you’re on? Regardless, I’ve submitted a ticket to our tech people to see if something is wrong with the polls on our publishing system. I’ll let you know if I hear anything back.”