Born Free USA Blog
On a dreary January morning in 1903, a crowd estimated at some 1,500 gathered in the off-season quiet of Coney Island, to witness what The New York Times termed "a rather inglorious affair."
Topsy, a six-ton, female Indian elephant in a circus, had recently developed a bad temper, and killing three circus workers in as many years. Each had in one way or another abused her. After a failed attempt to publicly poison Topsy by feeding her cyanide-laced carrots, and flawed plans to have her hanged, officials instead decided to electrocute Topsy as part of a publicity stunt on behalf of Thomas Edison.
At 2:45pm that sad January day, the crowd of 1,500 gasped as the current was activated. For 10 seconds 6,600 volts coursed through Topsy’s body as she convulsed and dropped over, smoke curling from her body. One man preserved part of Topsy’s hide for an office chair. Edison, her executioner, showed his film of the event, Electrocuting an Elephant (warning: graphic content), to audiences throughout the United States.
Now, more than 100 years later, circuses are still mistreating elephants and audiences are still gathering to watch. Despite all of the knowledge we have gained in the last century, people are still allowing these intelligent, incredible, and endangered, animals to be exploited and abused for a few minutes of entertainment. Apparently, after more than a century, we haven’t learned much.
Though we may not electrocute those that rampage, we will shoot them down in a hail of gunfire. Though we may not beat them with pitchforks, we do beat them with bullhooks. We chain them with chains. We tear babies from their mothers. We shut them in train cars for the majority of their lives. In short, over the last century, not much has changed for elephants in circuses.
But Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute has been working hard for years to right these wrongs, and with your help we will succeed. Not only are we working with cities and counties to ban the use of cruel training devices such as bullhooks and chains on elephants, we are also one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus for their mistreatment of endangered elephants. The trial begins October 20 and we urge you to consider a donation to the Elephant Defense Fund. Only with your help can we continue this David vs. Goliath battle — a small non-profit against a huge, multi-million dollar entertainment giant — regal, defenseless elephants against those who enslave them.
Please give today. Elephants in circuses have endured abuse at the hands of people for too long, allowing even another day is inexcusable.