A photojournalist spent days riding through the Burmese jungle on a motorbike in an attempt to capture on film how elephants are "trained" before being smuggled out of Burma and sold into slavery to perform in circuses and street shows in Thailand. Brent Lewin's prize-winning photograph is leaving viewers horrified in disbelief.
During the training session that Lewin witnessed, a baby elephant tried in vain to turn away and shield herself from the blows. Her mother was tied up where she could see what was happening. Lewin said, "I've never heard an elephant scream like that before …." The baby was beaten until she began to cry, her spirit broken. During these training sessions, animals are typically tied up and beaten for days. Says Lewin, "There was a point when the elephant just resigned to what was happening and stood still, the life in her eyes disappeared. It was a look that was haunting."
Elephants who are forced to perform in any type of act are beaten until they comply. Please, don't patronize any elephant act at home or abroad. To help elephants forced to perform in the U.S., please send an e-mail to the USDA asking the agency to enforce the Animal Welfare Act in cases of violations by groups such as Ringling Bros.
A baby elephant is trained at Ringling's breeding center.
Written by Michelle Sherrow