As the community is wrestling with the controversy of bringing abused elephants to offer rides at the Nevada County Fair, unfounded assertions have been made about video taken by Animal Defenders International, which shows the owners and trainers of Have Trunk Will Travel beating and shocking their elephants with stun guns during routine handling and training.
In an opinion piece in The Union, “Nevada County Fair Board responds on elephant issue,” Nevada Fair board representatives repeated inaccurate claims made by HTWT media spokesman Paul O’Sullivan that the ADI video had been “edited and doctored.” This is patently untrue, and ADI appreciates this opportunity to set the record straight.
Over approximately eight weeks, ADI gathered nearly 10 hours of video evidence at the HTWT ranch in Perris, Calif. From that, we produced a nine and a half minute series of clips that capture some of the key acts of violence that cause concern. The video evidence can be viewed at http://bit.ly/ADI-HTWTInvestigation. The video itself was not altered in any way and edited only to remove sequences that are not germane to the key issues of concern we have raised. HTWT has seen the full video.
Further, neither the Association of Zoos & Aquariums nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture has advised ADI of any investigations they have conducted in relation to our video evidence. Although the USDA conducts routine inspections from time to time, it is not surprising that inspectors would not witness abuse. Abuse like this is always hidden away, which is exactly what makes this undercover evidence so important by revealing what happens behind the scenes. One trainer even commented to our investigator while being videotaped, “Don’t you be takin’ pictures of me hooking on them!”
In this video, you will see a total of 168 hits, hooks and jabs with a weapon called a bullhook and shocks from a “stun gun,” which delivers millions of volts of electricity and clearly causes distress and suffering. In fact, there would be no point in using these weapons if they did not have the desired effect on the elephants — and this can be seen on the video.
ADI respectfully requests that the Fair board consider in what context, or spread over what period of time, it would ever be acceptable to hook, hit, jab and shock these intelligent wild animals, an endangered species, 168 times to get them to do circus tricks or cluck like a chicken?
In addition to the violence, we highlighted in our report the effects of their confinement. For example, they are in a barren environment with little to no stimulation, chained to the ground by two legs, able to take only a step forward and backward for 12 hours every night. Stereotypical swaying, head bobbing and/or weaving were observed in all five of the elephants in the study — Dixie, Kitty, Tai, Rosie and Becky — and these repetitive movements are considered by animal behaviorists to be a sign of poor welfare.
HTWT also claimed that a federal court has reviewed the video evidence and exonerated them of wrongdoing. This is incorrect. The case was about sales of movie tickets and the company’s deceptive business practices and false advertising, under California’s Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code, and no judgment was made regarding the video evidence. The case was dismissed on legal technicalities; however, the court also ruled that HTWT’s misconduct rose to the level of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law. To claim that the video evidence was looked at by the court in this case and dismissed is false and grossly misleading.
The ill treatment of elephants by HTWT has received universal condemnation around the world from veterinary surgeons, elephant experts, zoo industry insiders and the public. Following their review of this evidence, the boards of the Orange County Fair, LA County Fair, Upland Lemon Festival and Santa Ana Zoo and the cities of Fountain Valley and Sierra Madre all made the decision that they will not include elephant rides at their events.
ADI has more than 20 years of experience studying the use of animals in entertainment and a respected reputation for providing courts with evidence for criminal prosecutions. Governments and legislators have also used ADI’s evidence to inform regulations and legislation.
HTWT’s attempts to discredit the evidence are as transparent as they are shameful, and we urge the Fair board and the community not to be misled and to take a closer look. We have included more of this evidence as part of ADI’s “No Fun For Elephants” video, narrated by the legendary Bob Barker, which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/NoFunForElephants. We ask that you please share this footage with your readers so that they are informed about the price paid by the elephants in pain and suffering for a few minutes of what appears to be harmless fun.
Jan Creamer is the president of Animal Defenders International. For information, visit http://ad-international.org.
Abuse like this is always hidden away, which is exactly what makes this undercover evidence so important by revealing what happens behind the scenes.