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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.

Commenting is closed.
  • Michelle Porter says:

    This is a disgrace…and will certainly come back to haunt Katy Animal Abuser Perry..

  • Jillian Schmuhl says:

    Stop abusing animals. By supporting you are just as bad as a users are. You just lost another fan. Disgusting

  • Abby says:

    Los elefantes son animales hermosos y deben permanecer libres. Usarlos para el entretenimiento de las personas es cruel e inhumano, muchos de ellos son maltratados gravemente y viven atados a cadenas hasta el día de su muerte. ¡No más animales para el entretenimiento!

  • carol walker says:

    Its wrong to take animals out of the wild, and away from their families. Also its wrong to have animals beaten just for entertainment purposes.

  • Debbie says:

    I have one small voice Katy and yours is heard around the world; if anyone can bring the attention of the world to this poor animals its you. Stay strong for their sake and never let anyone make you do different.

  • abbe pritchard says:

    Disgusting im sure she didnt know though she seems pretty reasonable

  • Nathalie Lagrange says:

    Stop stop stop à cette violence il faut arrêter des inhumains envers les animaux!!!!!

  • Anna says:

    Please consider the impact this type of captivity has on these mazing creatures. They aren’t stage props. please consider using CGI or other creative methods to achieve impact in film, without supporting the improper care of such intelligent and Social animals.

  • Dr. Idil P. Izmirli says:

    Shame, shame, shame..You need to think before you act. Why don’t you give some money and let this poor elephant move to an elephant sanctuary in the US. Then maybe then, God as well as your public will and can forgive you.

  • Space says:

    KATY PERRY – and ALL of her greed fueled kind! Talentless, ignorant and abhorrently DISGUSTING! You totally sicken me!

  • Sandra Woods says:

    Won’t buy or listen to her music now that I know!

  • Sarah brown says:

    Katy you are an idol to many and set an example. Please set the right example and do not support animal cruelty. Think about these wild animals and how they gave ended up in captivity and the training methods that have been used to train them so they can appear in videos such as yours.

  • melodie miller says:

    Stop abusing elephants in videos!!

  • suzan erenstein says:

    Stap the abuse of animals

  • Tiago says:

    Why are you doing this? Do you enjoy being cruel to others?

  • Agnès Dubreuil says:

    stop appearing with wild animals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ela says:

    I’m done with her music! ! Cruel!

  • uzanne Zacharia says:

    Your musical genius does not need animals to enhance it. Please consider what you are contributing to and sto using wild animals in your videos.

  • Monika says:

    You are a very small person Katy…

  • Paul skinner says:

    Katy stop using animals to promote your career it’s totally wrong it’s a bit like slavery because they have no choice in it surely living beings should be helping your career because they want to ?

  • Vanessa says:

    Free the poor elephant! Give her the chance to freedom and let her meet other elephants! Free her from the chains!

  • Samantha Bubb says:

    Disappointed in you. Is your perfume tested on animals as well – probably.

  • Sam Walsh says:

    Am sure it was fun making your video but not so Much fun for the poor animals give a thought for them and think what kind of life they have – they don’t have a life.

  • christine hornecker says:


  • val smith says:

    Kate Perry, You are an intelligent girl? dont let the glitz, glamour, fame and dollars blind you from being informed. Please stop exploiting all animals and using them to promote yourself. Perhaps saving a few animals would give you more genuine exposure. Be smart and be aware of what you do. Val Smith

  • Auderset Danielle says:


  • Natalie bunkman says:

    You are supposed to be a role model, stop doing this horrible thing like supporting animal abuse.

  • Camilla Krogsrud says:

    It is completely unacceptable to use animals for entertainment in any shape or form!

  • BArb says:

    Katy, please stop appearing with wild animals. They don’t belong in your music videos. You have no heart and respect for these animals.

  • Eric says:

    These wonderful animals are not here for our entertainment. Be responsible please, and perhaps use your status to make people aware of problems related to this.

  • manda says:

    stop appearing with wild animals. stop supporting animal abuse

  • Sarah says:

    So selfish.

  • Jenni says:

    Despicable!! Katy Perry you should be ashamed but they don’t really care. As long as they make a profit. I used to like her music but not any more, she is on my list of never to be bought, downloaded or played again!!!! I willl switch off the radio when she comes on! well done for publicising this disgusting behaviour.

  • Barbara says:

    Celebrities need to be more responsible in their choices. Whether you become a spokesperson for a cosmetics company that tests on animals or use animals in your videos. Do your research! It’s not all about you…..

  • Selina says:

    Please stop appearing with wild animals. You have to be an idol and shouldn’t do things like that!

  • jennifer atack says:

    It doesn’t surprise me considering she supports obama too! She’s a horrible human being!

  • Gitte says:

    Is that elephant getting help??.!!

  • ester zanoner says:

    Please stop with that kind of shows you don’t really need and they are not funny. Thanks

  • Grabensteiner Katharina says:

    Please stop it! Your Fan!

  • süheyla mu says:

    be human and humane

  • holger vent says:

    stop animal abusing !

  • holger vent says:

    stop animal abusing !

  • iuliana gabriela calin says:

    animals are you ours to entertain !!!

  • Elaine Clarke says:

    Stop promoting animals used for entertainment. Start promoting the rescue and end-of-suffering for animals! People who have the world watching them have the power to do so much good!

  • Clare Yarker says:

    Please stop using elephants as your props. These beautiful creatures are not here for us to use as entertainment.

  • Asphodel Bunce says:

    I like katy Perry’s music, that’s why I want her to be respectful with animals and nature.

  • Rachael Zaidel Lamb says:

    Katy, I know you are an animal lover and I know it would not be you who would choose which company the animals used came from. Next time could you please insist a company with a better care record for their animals is chosen.

  • Rob Henson says:

    Please stop this cruelty and free these performing elephants!!

  • Charmaine and Naiya (age 9) says:

    Shame on you Katy Perry!

  • Sina Doerfler says:

    Please think about your actions with animals in the Future and stop abuse them for your work! Thanks!