Texas A&M’s ‘Elephant Walk’ Blasted for Cruelty to Animals, Potential Public Endangerment

PETA Asks School Officials to Honor Exiting Seniors Without Harming Animals

For Immediate Release:
October 23, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

College Station, Texas

This morning, PETA called on Texas A&M University officials to ensure that this year’s “Elephant Walk,” a school ceremony for seniors, does not include any actual elephants. As PETA notes in its letter, insider video footage and photographs show that elephant handlers train elephants to obey when they’re babies by using bullhooks—weapons that resemble fireplace pokers with a sharp metal hook on one end—to beat them into submission and then continue to use the bullhooks throughout their captive lives in order to force them to perform confusing and unnatural tasks out of fear of punishment.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—also points out that live elephants pose a risk to students and spectators: An average of one person is killed by an elephant each year in the U.S., and many more are injured. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that elephants can easily transmit tuberculosis to humans.

“Forcing a captive elephant to march in the Elephant Walk out of fear of being hit with a bullhook is no way to treat these intelligent, sensitive beings or to honor the seniors,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on Texas A&M to be true to its core values of excellence, integrity, and respect by making this and all future Elephant Walks cruelty-free.”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.


PETA’s letter to Texas A&M follows.


October 23, 2014


Mark A. Hussey, Interim President
Rachel Herrod, Elephant Walk Director
Neil Rabroker, Junior Elephant Walk Director
Texas A&M University


Dear Dr. Hussey, Ms. Herrod, and Mr. Rabroker:

I am writing about the scheduled appearance of a live elephant at this year’s Elephant Walk in November. The suffering that elephants used for entertainment are forced to endure is inexcusable, and this tradition is not worth maintaining.

Captive elephants are denied everything that is natural and important to them, from space in which to roam and the opportunity to exercise in order to avoid debilitating arthritis and chronic foot problems to the company of their herd and occasions to socialize. Elephants don’t do headstands, walk in mundane circles with hundreds of pounds of people on their backs, and pose for pictures by choice—they do so because refusing means being struck with a bullhook, a sharp metal weapon resembling a fireplace poker. During training, elephants used for performances and rides are routinely beaten with bullhooks until their spirits and wills are broken. When not performing, most captive elephants spend their lives in chains. Elephants experience joy, sadness, grief, and fear and have rich, complex emotional and social lives. In captivity, they endure isolation, prolonged chaining, and routine bullhook beatings.

Bringing elephants onto campus also endangers the public and students, posing a huge liability risk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that “you always put yourself at risk when you go near an elephant, no matter how good the trainer/handler and elephant appear to be.” An average of one person is killed by an elephant each year in the U.S., and many more are injured. In addition, elephants can carry the human strain of tuberculosis (TB). Active TB has been identified in more than 10 percent of elephants in the U.S., and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned, this disease is highly transmissible from elephants to humans, even without direct contact.

This generation of students is perhaps the most compassionate one we have seen, and I imagine they would happily continue the tradition without the use of a live elephant if they were educated about the plight of elephants in captivity. Furthermore, Texas A&M’s core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service leave no room for supporting an industry that is cruel and abusive. Our members are eagerly waiting for an update, so may I please hear from you immediately? Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Deputy General Counsel | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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