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Katy Roars, Elephant Whimpers

Written by Guest Blogger | October 10, 2013

“You hear my voice, you hear that sound, like thunder gonna shake your ground,” hollers Katy Perry in her new song “Roar.” Although the tune is a hit with Generation Selfie, one notable young lady is clearly not a fan: Suzy, Katy’s reluctant elephant costar in the song’s video.

Elephants don’t like loud noises, bright lights or hectic sets with dozens of people running around. As an Emmy-winning wildlife documentarian who has spent decades producing nature features for IMAX, Animal Planet and the Disney Channel, I am among many filmmakers who film animals only in their natural habitat. How did Suzy, a member of a threatened species from Africa, find herself next to Katy Perry on a deafening California set? She was violently captured from her free-roaming herd in Zimbabwe when she was 2 years old and shipped to the U.S., where she was most likely bound and beaten in order to make her perform without complaint. This video shows how it’s done in the industry.

It’s ironic that Katy’s song “Roar” is about female empowerment since elephants are matriarchal—the females stick together for life in the wild, for up to 70 years. Suzy, on the other hand, has spent 10 of the last 20 years deprived of the companionship of any other elephants. She is stored like a studio prop and trotted out at the whim of producers, directors and stars. The reason I’m singling out Katy is because this isn’t her first time making a mockery of these highly intelligent animals—earlier, she had made her grand entrance at a gossip blogger’s birthday party riding on the back of an elephant.

The “Roar” video was a hot topic at the recent Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Wyoming, but the buzz wasn’t good. Among the speakers was PETA’s Dan Mathews, who was quizzed about the music video since he is known for his campaigns to protect elephants with artists such as Pink and Paul McCartney. He said that he has met Katy and had sent her detailed information about the cruelty that captive elephants endure after her first offense but wasn’t sure whether she had read it. Frustrated, PETA went from privately prodding the singer to publicly blasting her repeated use of captive elephants.

Katy shot back with a letter from the American Humane Association declaring that no animal had been harmed on the set. So PETA explained to her that the AHA doesn’t monitor cruel capture and training methods and that its rubber stamp in Hollywood has become a public travesty. Just last year, the AHA was on set during the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (27 animals died during the making of the film) and the HBO series Luck (which was canceled after three horses died during production). The meaninglessness of the AHA’s seal of approval can routinely be seen in the news.

I hope Katy will find a few minutes to read this piece. I don’t imagine that she’s mean—just distracted. Only when stars, directors and producers stop forcing exotic animals onto soundstages will these sensitive and sophisticated animals get a reprieve. Katy Perry may be one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but next to that sad elephant, she looks like a very small person.

Please e-mail Katy and ask her to stop appearing with wild animals.

Chris Palmer is director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and a film professor at American University in Washington, D.C. His nature features and shorts have won two Emmys and an Oscar nomination. His experiences with wildlife are chronicled in his memoir, Shooting in the Wild.

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  • Anna Harries says:

    Save Suzy!!! Stop animals suffer for our benefit!

  • Shirley Bicknell says:

    I think anyone who uses and abuses these beautiful animals are worthless! I will no longer support these entertainers, not will my friends or family.

  • Anna Harries says:

    Save Suzy!!! Stop animals suffer for our benefit!

  • Bryan says:

    Its not fair and cruel!!!

  • Carolyn Noel says:

    Katy you and other performers should set an example and NEVER use animals in your videos. No animal should be made to perform. Please consider when and how these animals are obtained. Thank you.

  • Abby says:

    Katy stop animal abuse. Shame on you.

  • Paulina Mtz says:

    Enough with the medieval behaviour!

  • Julia Hoepfner says:

    You have a voice. Use your voice for helpless innocent animals who can’t raise their voices in order that we,the most cruel beings and characters existing on this planet,hear them and take action against any misuse of animals and their environment.

  • DemiDonohoe says:

    Disgusting, these beautiful animals are NOT props! They belong in the wild with the company of other elephants and as far away from us disgusting human beings as possible.

  • Ana Huesca says:

    STOP KIDNAPPING ANIMALS FOR ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!

  • Margaret Britt says:

    I enjoy your music very much and I hope and pray you do the right thing and stop using animals in your video’s. Please!

  • Diogenes Gonçalves says:

    Stop the madness !

  • Mal Parker says:

    At least take some of the proceeds of your CD and make sure this elephant is put somewhere with other elephants and is not alone for the rest of her days.

  • Christi says:

    This is AWFUL!!! These poor animals need to be free!

  • PAULETTE YACOVIELLO says:

    STOP HURTING GOD’S INNOCENT CREATURES. I HAVESTOPPED ALL YOUR MUSIC FROM COMING INTO MY HOUSE. MY SON IS NO LONGER ALLOWED TO HEAR ANYTHING YOU SAY!!!!!

  • Tracey Merralls says:

    STOP THIS!!!

  • Liz Grotte says:

    Hi Katy, I’ve been a supporter of yours for a while now and really like what you represent…except for the use of animals in your videos. Please, do the animals a favor and don’t use them as props. It’s really not cool. They don’t want to be in the video and should be in their nature habitat and enjoyed this way. Not in music videos or other forms of enterntainment for us humans. Thanks for lending me a few seconds of your time. –Liz

  • Alyssa Portnoy says:

    Disrespect towards animals! Unbelievable.

  • Laura says:

    Pleaaaaase stop appearing with wild animals. They should not be used for our entertainment. Suzy, the elephant you used in your video, was violently captured from her mother at two years old and most likely beaten into performing. She has spent ten years living alone, without the companionship of other elephants. You are talented enough to not need to use wild animals to make more money. I know I will never support you or your career in the future because of this and I know other animal lovers and supporters feel the same. Please reconsider using these beautiful animals in the future. Thank you so much! Laura (animal lover and supporter)

  • bossa says:

    Unspeakable selfishness! Using an oppressed soul for one’s own pleasure and money making should be a criminal offense (it already is in my eyes). This poor creature needs to be rehabilitated. Would you like to get life imprisonment for just being who you are?

  • MeiD says:

    I love the Roar song, Katy, but didn´t expect this at all. This is so disappointing and sad..

  • Angela Oueslati says:

    You have the power to help animals, please do something to help this poor elephant, help him be free and have the company of his own kind.

  • Keila says:

    Katy I love your songs, but really, you gotta do something for animals… I do not know if you can see the pain in their eyes.. maybe you just don’t look. We don’t have the right to abuse them, in any way. Please don’t use more animals in your videos, you’re just supporting the abuse to them. YOUR FANS HATE THAT!! I HATE THATM I CAN’T WATCH YOUR VIDEO WITHOUT THINKING ON HOW THE ELEPHANT IS SUFFERING.

  • Sharon Hustwit says:

    PLEASE stop supporting the abuse and exploitation of these reverent, wise and majestic creatures and do something to actually help THEM (in particular: Suzy), not merely your music career!

  • Audrey says:

    Really, this shouldn’t be happening today, with all the people against animal abuse in wild animals. This is terrible, I can’t believe that Katy Perry would condone this type of treatment of an animal especially for her video. DON’T BUY KATY PERRY’S VIDEO OR ELSE THIS ANIMAL WILL BE DEAD OR ALWAYS IN PAIN.

  • Audrey says:

    Really, this shouldn’t be happening today, with all the people against animal abuse in wild animals. This is terrible, I can’t believe that Katy Perry would condone this type of treatment of an animal especially for her video. DON’T BUY KATY PERRY’S VIDEO OR ELSE THIS ANIMAL WILL BE DEAD OR ALWAYS IN PAIN.

  • Audrey says:

    Really, this shouldn’t be happening today, with all the people against animal abuse in wild animals. This is terrible, I can’t believe that Katy Perry would condone this type of treatment of an animal especially for her video. DON’T BUY KATY PERRY’S VIDEO OR ELSE THIS ANIMAL WILL BE DEAD OR ALWAYS IN PAIN.

  • J.C. says:

    By including these animals in your videos you are supporting awful abuse, sadly. Please do not support this kind of abuse anymore.

  • katie says:

    This Needs To StOp..I Cant Believe Stars R Supportin Animal abuse

  • Yvonne Marley says:

    Think Katy think

  • mie bøgesvang says:

    how can you do this to a living being :(

  • Ashley says:

    Katy, I know you are an animal lover so I think that this will hit home. These animals are not treated properly, please stop supporting animal abuse!

  • audreyd says:

    This should never have happened to this beautiful creature. STOP THIS TRAVESTY FROM HAPPENING AGAIN.

  • Suzanne Scaini says:

    You’re an intelligent woman. Do the right thing and stop using/appearing with these poor animals. They are not our property and should not be used for our amusement.

  • Ali says:

    Do to others as you would have done to you!

  • Florence Bernard says:

    Stop using animals.

  • Sam Newman says:

    Stop animal abuse for god sake

  • Areti Karokikis says:

    Do not just ask for an exotic animal for your music video without thinking about the consequences for that animal and all other animals.

  • alison wood says:

    Katy you are cooler than this, please please please give these animals a voice and stop forcing , using them for your own, entertainments own purpose.

  • Annemarie Schmidt says:

    Please don’t abuse animals anymore!! They are treaten like things in the showbusiness.. But they do have the right to live without pain!!!!

  • alison wood says:

    Katy you are cooler than this, please please please give these animals a voice and stop forcing , using them for your own, entertainments own purpose.

  • Annelie Engelmann says:

    Please stop appearing with wild animals.

  • stacey says:

    Really disappointed, anyone who can stand by and watch an innocent animal suffer like that has no humanity

  • paula henriques says:

    What is Katy trying to show? Human power over “irracional” animals? If so, really sad, since that kind of action doesn´t show respect or dignity at all towars our fellows earthlings.

  • Julie Frew says:

    Katy< people look up to you, please make sure your actions never involve the ‘use’ of sentient beings. Please help animals, rather than expecting them to help you, be a voice for the voiceless!

  • db williams says:

    HORRIBLE!!!!

  • mary canaday-gray says:

    I have always thought of you as a sensitive woman with a good heart. If this is true, please stop using animals in your videos that are harmful to the animals o make the animals fearful…it is wrong and it is cold of you to do otherwise. Thank you.

  • Natasha says:

    As such an influential woman, I would hope you have taken heed of the news on the background of the elephant, & will endeavour to refrain from repeating the set up in future videos. I would also hope that as a strong, & ordinarily fabulous, role model you would use your influence to educate your fans in how to make a difference to conserving our incredible planet & the animals that inhabit it with us! Your younger fans are the future so help empower them to make a difference! All the best Natasha

  • Marty Ostrow says:

    Katy should be free to appear with all the wild animals she prefers — as long as she uses the exclusive services of the animal casting director for Life of Pi!

  • Maureen boag says:

    We do not own this earth. We have no God-given right to cage, chain, exploit, abuse, torture or test on any other living animal we share this earth with.

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