So I went undercover at the recent Garden Brothers Circus. I didn't trespass, I had permission to be there I showed them a badge from a donation I had made to an organization that will remain nameless, and they let me in.
I exspected they would be more apprehensive but playing dumb and talking up these carnies was like shooting tin cans point blank.
First and foremost I was allowed into the Circus simply by saying I needed a phone. Once inside I easily slipped away and took a private tour to get my bearings.
I found the elephants easily in a parking garage... Upon being stopped by a male trainer I whipped out my contribution badge which I had laminated and said I had called ahead to check that the elephants had everything they needed.
The man didn't even look at it.
I have worked with elephants before and am familiar with their commands. I will be honest. What I saw there was not horrific, it was just sad. These elephants appeared so bored and so hopeless it broke my heart.
The three ladies were standing on bare concrete flooring. They had shackles on their feet connected to a concrete pillion. Less than 24 feet away lie an huge pile of dung 3 feet by 4 feet in size.
The smell was overpowering. There was no Hay, Timothy or otherwise for the ladies to munch or stnad on. They had dirty feet, and were swaying back and force in rhythem to the cars driving by. There was no music, no interaction, no food and no water.
A beautiful young woman came down as I was writing down my observations and introduced herself as the wife of the male trainer. She had been working with elephants all her life and appeare to have a deep love for the animals, but little understanding of anything being wrong with the surroundings.
She carried no bullhook although her husband did. She dressed the elephants in shiny masks and gave each one a scratch before untethering them and having them line up.
The ladies were forced to stand on a steep concrete drive and wait for the trainer to ask one of the elephants to lift her foot so as I could brush caked on feces from the bottom. I got two swipes before the man took the brush way and said "we don't have time for this"
Previosly I had asked each elephant to open her mouth so I could view her teeth and chin. I saw old healed marks and cuts but nothing recent at all. The ladies were very curious about me and each took turns reaching into pockets and touching my hair.
I truly felt like they knew my concern for them.
After the ladies went into the ring I was asked to leave and walked outside. I found a place where I could continue to view the girls without being seen.
Upon returning to the garage they were immediately shackled again, and given a 5 gallon bucket of water. No apples, affection, treats or brush down.
I observed the male trainer asking one of the elephants to open her mouth, peer in, and blow a thick cloud of cigarette smoke into her mouth.
I was disgusted and decided it was time to do some more research.
I found a carnie smoking in the back of the duilding with another female who had her child on some sort of leash. I feighned ignorance of the event inside and attempted to flirt with the carnie man. The man took all of three seconds to warm up before he was talking about Sarasota Florida being the Circus capital of the world. He told me the elephants are always transported in a huge truck and often do back to back shows throughout the entire year. He further informed me that the Garden Brothers Circus didn't even own the animals that they leased them from Sarasota Florida. I asked about a well known elephant abuser whom I'd seen in Peta Video's pretending to be facinated at his bravery. The man smiled and said "Well you know, these elephants are really like huge dumb dogs I hear, they don't do nothin and only respond to a little military discipline ya know? Like...Pain doesn't seem to effect them they'll trust anybody, cute animals but dumb, they are lucky there are circuses that can find a use for them."
I thanked the man for his time and gave him a fake phone number. Then proceeded directly to the picket line and informed my boss of what I had found.
We were both saddened and amazed.
Elephants are intelligent animals that nurse their young, travel in groupd of woman, and are curious and fun loving by nature. Elephants enjoy music, exploring, swimming, sratching and being near one another. They have favorite foods just like people and form lifelong friendships.
Elephants truly have the capacity to remember people and it is true that even though scars fade, elephants never forget cruelty. Nor do they forget compassion. Be kind to these gentle creatures. Do not attend the circus of patronize zoo's that are innadequete shelters for these magnificent animals.
For more information please go to www.circuses.com