An article released in The San Diego Union-Tribune on June 4, 2013 revealed two elephants, Rosie and Tai, forced to perform tricks at Dog Beach in Del Mar, California. The purpose of this stunt was to promote a fundraiser that Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), a business that enslaves elephants for the purpose of entertainment, is conducting in support of the nonprofit International Elephant International Elephant Foundation, which conducts research, conservation, and captive breeding programs, provided the newspaper with a statement of support of HTWT in exchange for HTWT’s potential $5,000 donation. Deborah Olson, executive director of the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) is purported by the paper to have claimed that HTWT is known for their “positive reinforcement techniques”.
A claim that HTWT elephants dance, sit, and perform other menial tricks as a result of positive reinforcement is entirely false. Hidden video footage captured by Animal Defenders International revealed HTWT elephants being beaten with bullhooks and repeatedly shocked with electric prods. A baby elephant was caught on film crying out in pain upon being hooked in the lip, and other elephants bellowing out in pain as a result of being jabbed or having their tusks sawed. It is unimaginable that any organization that genuinely cared about the well being of elephants would find this type of abusive treatment “positive reinforcement,” much less morally acceptable. HTWT does not hide the fact that they actively abuse animals. In fact, HTWT have opposed legislation prohibiting the use of bullhooks and electric prods on elephants.
We find it morally reprehensible that a nonprofit whose goal is to care for elephants and their survival would speak out in support of a business that uses and abuses elephants for profit and accept donations from them. Until IEF withdraws support for HTWT, we ask that you do not support IEF and that you sign the petition letting Deborah Olson of IEF know that the abuse of elephants will not be tolerated for any level of profit.
Adam Sugalski and Carrie LeBlanc
Further, your comment in the San Diego Union-Tribune that these types of shows connect individuals with wild animals is entirely false. No current research suggests that people who witness wild animals performing in circuses, zoos, aquariums, or other animal enslavement camps engages them with animals in any meaningful way that ultimately results in furthered conversation efforts. If anything, it seems far more likely to believe that circus acts only underscore a justification of man’s domination of animals for his/her own enjoyment.
With this letter I ask that you immediately renounce Have Trunk Will Travel and the abhorrent practice of enslaving elephants for the purpose of menial entertainment. Until that time, I will not be supporting International Elephant Foundation and will encourage others to withdraw their support as well.