Born Free USA Blog
As a new parent I have discovered that far too often children's books or movies portray circuses in a positive light, thus sending a message to children that it is acceptable and even desirable to support the exploitation of wildlife.
However, I just discovered one of the most wonderful children's books of all time. Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. This book was actually written before Horton Hears a Who which was recently popularized by the movie of the same name.
In Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton (the elephant) promises a mother bird that he will sit on her egg while she takes a "break." When the bird fails to return, Horton stays on the nest through all sorts of weather and ridicule from other animals, repeating to himself over and over, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant ... An elephant's faithful One hundred per cent!"
Hunters then capture Horton. "Let's take him alive. Why, he's terribly funny! We'll sell him back home to a circus, for money!", they say.
Then as Dr. Seuss describes, Horton is
"Sold to a circus! Then week after week
They showed him to people at ten cents a peek ...
And everywhere thousands of folks flocked to see
And laugh at the elephant up in a tree.
Poor Horton grew sadder the farther he went,
But he said as he sat in the hot noisy tent:
'I meant what I said and I said what I meant...
An elephant's faithful — one hundred per cent!"
The story is complete with a happy ending — Horton is returned to his home in the wild.
You don't even have to read to get the message from this sweet tale. The story was adapted into a ten-minute animated short film in 1942, released as part of Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies series. I've posted it here for your viewing pleasure:
It's clear Dr. Seuss understood something about elephants. Elephants are know for exhibiting qualities of compassion and loyalty and not just to members of their own family or species, as this touching clip from the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee demonstrates:
We have a lot to learn from elephants. If only we could demonstrate those qualities of loyalty and compassion and stop exploiting them in abusive circuses and cramped zoos and let them be happy ... one hundred per cent!