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One Giant Step for Elephantkind

Written by PETA | August 20, 2011

Elephant advocates are celebrating a new policy by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The policy requires that all AZA-accredited facilities prohibit staff and elephants from being in the same space, with some limited exceptions, by September 2014. This means that elephants in zoos will be protected from handlers (and the abusive instruments they wield) and vice versa.

There are two basic styles of managing captive elephants–‘protected contact’ and ‘free contact. With protected contact, there is always a barrier between handlers and elephants, which is not only more humane but also much safer for both species. In “free contact,” the handler is always armed with a sharp, metal-tipped bullhook that they use at will to strike elephants, and elephants know what will happen when they see the bullhook coming. Although the new policy does not require full protected contact, as it has exceptions for things like required health and welfare procedures, it is a giant step in the right direction.

PETA has agitated for protected contact for more than a decade, back to the time when Sissy, an elephant at the El Paso Zoo, snapped under the pressure of captivity and attacked her handler. Allowing trainers armed with bullhooks to be in close proximity to captive elephants can go horribly wrong.

exfody | cc by 2.0

Over the past 20 years, captive elephants in the U.S. have killed 15 people and injured more than 135, often the result of rampages by elephants who have had one beating too many. No deaths and only one injury (from disregarded protocol) have occurred at zoos that use protected contact.


Written by Michelle Sherrow

Commenting is closed.
  • AetherIdol says:

    Two years is indeed a long time to wait and it is sad that it should even be an issue to begin with. Slowly but surely by bringing inhumane practices like these to light ,the tide is turning though thanks to organizations like PETA and the hard work and love of ordinary people.

  • micdavis says:

    No animals should be abused. It is not only about cruelty. It is also about not allowing ecosystems to fail because of human entertainment.

  • voicefor animals says:

    I have seen the abuse elephants and other animals endure under the big top. Circuses are NO place for ANY animal! These hooks are painful weapons that damage and tear the very sensitive skin of these marvelous, intelligent animals! It’s abuse and MUST STOP, 2014 is NOT SOON ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Christine Montgomery says:

    Please stop this cruelty NOW no need to wait. NOW!!

  • Maggie says:

    This should be implemented now, these endangered species have waited long enough. The USDA should also revise and update the AWA law. As it should have more protection against endangered species, the poor elephants that travel 300 days a year is unjust to them! Feld entertainment and Ringling Bros should be put out of business, and/or any circus with animals!! St. Francis and St. Isidore be with your creatures.

  • tiziana says:

    Stop now,please! tiziana Ponziani Italia

  • Theresa Aulig says:

    I’m concerned about the daily walks with elephants that some zoos are practicing – the elephants will surely miss this. I know Wild Safari in Winston Oregon walks their elephants. So this news is good on one hand but bad on the other.

  • Gabrielle says:

    Please Stop abusing these elephants ! They don’t deserve it whatsoever ! their beautiful creatures that deserve a chance in life, & to be respected !! Think about their feelings ! How would You like to be treated that way! You wouldn’t like it , I guarantee you!! So Please don’t wait another year, BAN BULLHOOKS NOW, & BE THE GOOD PERSON! Elephants are gently creatures that deserve love !

  • Mom2 says:

    Please stop this now.

  • Brandi Cooper says:

    Two more years of beatings and suffering before this law goes into effect. PETA I appreciate all u do for animals, but what is up with the two year wait? Animal lovers like me want just justice for these gentle giants now! Let’s push to get this law going as soon as possible and stop this torture today.

  • Leona Fowler says:

    Sounds like a good plan to protect the helpless elephants. Thanks.

  • Nicholas Gysi says:

    Ban “free contact” now. Bring in Protected Contact now.

  • tara nutt says:

    My little boy, Liam says he wants the torture and suffering to end NOW!!!!!

  • annie says:

    Why should the elephants have to suffer two more years. It allows ringling bros to carry on abusing these wonderful animals.It is just bonkers

  • Gwen Carlson says:

    please put and end to the cruelty these animals suffer, it is cruel and totally unnessary, animals were not put on earth for our use.

  • veganvamp says:

    Exactly, stop NOW! Don’t wait, 2 years is a lifetime for any living being

  • Gail Heinz says:

    I agree that two years means two more years of suffering!!!This is too long,as they have suffered long enough.Plus,we should not forget about this practice continuing in the circuses,Ringling Brothers,Cole,etc. The fight has to continue until all are held accountable,and stopped.

  • LouLouBelle says:

    What I wish for is no more circuses, no more zoos, no more aquariums. I want to see them live out their lives in freedom, just like we do.Too bad for us if we can’t see them close up. If you want to see them go see them in the wild, or there are wonderful videos that you can see them, and learn about them .

  • jaz_alsina says:

    The real question is Why are Zoo’s even legal?

  • Alexandra says:

    Yes, poor animals. some suffer a lot for salvation of our souls before going to Heaven.

  • Pat Creamer says:

    I agree, why wait two years? Stop now!!

  • Ana Cláudia Ramos Rossete says:

    To those people who abuse their animals deserve to be trampled, it is the way they ask for help from the world, these zoos they should adapt the animal to return to their natural habitat to be free, the elephant he is able to recognize a member of qdo even killed his family is now only bones, to have a caged animal in captivity only for finding beautiful, are killed for ivory only time we put a stop to it

  • Mary Roberson says:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated…” ~ one of my favorite quotes by Gandhi

  • Sally Jo says:

    What’s up with waiting for 2 years? Start the training now, find new people who can replace the abusers immediately, and get on with the program.

  • Debbie says:

    i agree with janice why wait for 2014 why not NOW – alot of elephants are going to suffer more

  • Dona says:


  • Neil says:

    Although if I were one of those zoo elephants I’m sure I’d be happy about this, I hope that the bigger effect is NOT that it gives people the idea that animals are treated better now, so zoos are OK . . . the end goal should be freedom for animals and recognition of their right not to be seen as property, not just less abuse

  • Steve says:

    This must stop now!! Not in 2 years!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chelsee says:

    I don’t see why they had it any other way before. If they are harming the animals in the first place, then they should never have let handlers in with the animals. I think that zoos are wrong in the first place.

  • Diana says:

    This should be happening NOW not in two years!!!

  • Jennifer says:

    Why wait until 2014? I don’t understand? How about training staff now and immediately start. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I understand the barriers will take time to build, but come on.

  • Janice Lorenzetti says:

    so between 2011 and 2014, bullhooks can be used. I guess a hell of a lot of elephants are in for it. Unreal. type in Ringling Brothers and see page called Ringling Brothers = Abuse, Misery and Torture

  • Lenne says:

    I guess the people who abuse animals think all these beatings are ok?? With the way the world is, I would really pray for them. There is heaven and a hell and its up to them where they want to go!! Lets pray for these ignorant people. Where are their souls going?