The tortured lives of celebrity elephants |

The tortured lives of celebrity elephants

During the controversy over the Nevada County Fair board’s decision to offer elephant rides at the fair, an argument presented by many in favor of the rides was that elephants were domesticated animals and have lived and worked peacefully in India for hundreds of years. We listened to a board member wax poetic about the beauty of the festivals and pageants that featured these magnificent animals.

On Aug. 18, the New York Times Magazine featured an article by Rollo Romig, titled “The Life of Celebrity Elephants”:

“Just before sunset the colossal animal turned on the crowd. He broke Kumary’s arm, threw her daughter against the wall, stepped on her other daughter’s leg and trampled her mother to death along with two other women.”

And later, seeing an elephant chained to a concrete platform:

“ … he never stopped swaying violently side to side, lashing out with his trunk whenever someone lingered nearby … Soon he [the mahout] would teach Ramachandran to obey him. He would probably start with a beating. ‘Otherwise he won’t listen,’ Rajn said. ‘That is how you train elephants, with beatings.’ A previous mahout’s beating left Ramachandran blind in one eye.”

Mr. Romig further states: “The animal that haunted me the most is the one I saw at … Kerala’s Guruvayur temple. He was missing a tusk, and the remaining one had a deep groove worn into it about a foot from the tip. Day after day he’d been using it to file away at his chains.”

Whether an elephant is decorated with temple bells, performing tricks at a circus or giving rides at a county fair, this exploitation could not continue without abusive training methods and the people who refuse to admit they exist.

The complete article may be read at or at your local library.

Mitzi Phillips

Grass Valley

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