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Opinion: If You Love Elephants, Don't Ride One

PETA responds to local bride who rented Tai the elephant for her wedding and why it's not a great idea.

The O.C. bride who recently  named Tai for her wedding day has been sadly misled about what her $3,000 went to support.

Chelsy Craig-Austin said that she rented Tai because she loves animals and wanted them to be a part of her wedding day. But Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), the company that owns Tai, has a long history of exploiting and abusing animals.

Video footage released by Animal Defenders International just last year shows HTWT trainers repeatedly beating Tai and other elephants with bullhooks—sharp metal rods that resemble fireplace pokers—and shocking them with electric prods. HTWT's training techniques are so cruel that they are illegal in California, but HTWT openly admits to and actually defends using bullhooks. Out of fear of being beaten, the elephants perform stunts for movies, let children ride on their backs, and, yes, carry brides to their wedding ceremonies.

When they are not making money for HTWT, the elephants are kept chained like bicycles. HTWT admitted in court that elephants are often kept in chains for more than 12 hours a day.

Torn away from their families, beaten into submission, forced to perform, and denied everything that is natural and important to them—that is how Tai and the other elephants at HTWT spend their sad existence. Anyone who loves animals should refuse to fund this pervasive cruelty and instead support initiatives to protect elephants, such as the recent decision by the city of Santa Ana to end cruel elephant rides at the zoo.

Michelle Sherrow is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

henrysays April 17, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Shipley: Gary Johnson is not going to hit or beat Tai anywhere near on set. That would be career suicide in Hollywood. That's why they train them at their compound. Elephants have good memories. All they need to do is see the bullhook in the trainers hand to know what it means. That's why he can guide them around on set and give commands that they follow. They also get fed when they follow commands. This is the MO the Johnsons rely on to do show after show. ADI showed the reality of how that is achieved off set. Watch the undercover video again. Then determine for yourself. Also if you're a dog or cat lover, substitute your animal for the elephant getting the "training" and determine for yourself whether that would be cruel. Oh, and don't forget to picture your dog or cat chained up for 12 hours a day, every day unless it's on set where people would think that was cruel. Let us know on this site. thanks.
Chelsy Craig-Austin July 10, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Thank you to those who have chosen to ignore the so called "activists" who do more harm than good to the animal community by making real animal people look crazy and extremist. Please take your ignorant comments elsewhere and present them to someone who can't refute them with facts. I am an animal rescuer, I am in school to become a vet, I am a proud vegetarian, and I am respected in my community as a true animal advocate and educator. I was well researched in my decision to have Tai in my wedding ceremony and I have first hand experience with Have Trunk Will Travel, who cares for their elephants incredibly well and are instrumental in essential elephant breeding programs. The INITIAL training practices that they use on the elephants, though frowned upon, are absolutely no different than using whips,spurrs, and bits on horses and choke or bark collars on dogs. If you are going to criticize this practice, then you'd better start criticizing all of the "socially acceptable" training practices used on other animals. The Bride :)
Cj Ellie July 10, 2012 at 12:23 PM
OMG! How extremely sad that someone who calls themselves a animal advocate, resucer, educator and future veterinarian still believes that it is acceptable for animals to be trained and treated with cruelty for entertainment and profit. The Johnson’s must be grooming you as a future veterinarian for their elephants as they have been able to convince you that it is socially acceptable training to repeatedly beat and shock an elephant that they have owned and been training for 30 years to make her perform circus tricks on cue. With your beliefs about the care and welfare of wild animals like elephants, you will not be able to truthful take the new veterinarian oath that says: "From today forward, every graduate entering our profession will swear an oath not only to protect animal health but also welfare; to not only relieve animal suffering but to prevent it. New oath, "Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge." With animal advocates like you, elephants don’t stand a chance of ever being treated humanely and with respect, what a shame.
S.A.P. July 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Is the family dog the same size as an elephant? That is a ridiculous comparison.
S.A.P. July 10, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Good for you, Chelsy, for ignoring these nuts. Even though several people who have actually spent time with the HTWT have stated that the animals are NOT mistreated, they still are like a dog with a bone in their ridiculous criticism (Oh, wait, is it cruel to give a dog a bone? What if they hurt themselves? Shouldn't dogs be vegetarians? What about the animal that the bone came from?) They threaten & wish evil on those who disagree with them. It really shows what kind of people THEY are. I'm sure your wedding was beautiful. Best wishes to you and your husband.

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