Your Guide to the Reality of Animal Circus

"The academic panel concluded that there appears to be little evidence to demonstrate that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses is any better or worse than that of animals kept in other captive environments" - Executive Summary of the DEFRA Circus Working Group 2007

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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Elephant Hind Leg Myth - Debunked!

The tide of collective human emotion is a strange and unpredictable thing. It sweeps one way, seemingly bringing joy and wonderment for many years and then, suddenly, it sweeps another way inspiring pity and pathos - sometimes, all around a single issue. Some people think in pictures and this is an image that can illicit the most polarized of views one can imagine. For as long as there have been performing elephants, the "trick" or behaviour of having these huge land mammals stand on their hind legs has been a regular mainstay of most routines. It is an impressive sight; a huge hulking animal exhibiting amazing balancing ability. Animal trainers have further extended this skill by having their charges perform other balancing skills, standing on various objects and even on one leg. Audiences were and still are awed by these feats. However, over time, the very concept of having an elephant stand on its hind legs has also become a regular feature of animal rights propaganda.  Unfortunately there is strong evidence that the idea that an elephant standing on its hind legs is an unnatural and damaging action has permeated some of our media.

In a report on a Romanian circus taken from The Daily Mail on 7th April 2011, Nick Fagge open up with piece of happy storytelling, "Waving their feet in the air, these three circus elephants risk crippling injuries every night as they are forced to sit in this unnatural position to amuse crowds." That's a rather melodramatic description of an elephant sitting up by the way. Fagge gets to the hind legs later, "And rearing up on their back legs, they must attempt to stand on another's back before marching out of the ring..." An animal putting their front legs onto the back of another animal! Sounds very unnatural... and yet somehow familiar. This ring any bells?

And elephants don't have to make war to show this behaviour. If we are to plant our tongues firmly in our cheeks and follow the anthropomorphic route they love to imply, infer and allow in their disciples, elephants can make something else. Something that seems to come rather naturally to most creatures outside of the single cell community... What was that song by The Bloodhound Gang?

But I digress... Elephants have a natural balance and have often been photographed standing on their hind legs in order to reach leaves on tall trees in the wild. Take a look at these images taken from Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine.  

Circus elephants have sat up and stood up on their hind legs for decades and remained in good health. There is no correlation cited in studies between the huge numbers of trained circus elephants that have been trained to stand, sit and walk on their hind legs and arthritis. So, an image can inspire different reactions, but this all depends on how the lens we look through has been coloured. You can go and see an animal performing a display and be enchanted by the story being told. Equally you can listen to another story about elephants suffering skeletal and internal due to being made to perform this rearing or sitting action. Or you can consult real studies and look to nature itself to determine whether or not this is really a damaging or unnatural action.


...Then there was the story about the Mae Taman elephant park in northern Thailand. On 23rd February 2007 Josh Woodfin reported in the Daily Express on a group of playful ex-timber logging pachyderms shooting hoops on their own. I kid you not. Completely unattended in the park, the young elephants have applied the skills they once used for logging to "play basketball".  


Peta vs Animals
Via: Astley's Legacy was formed to counter the misinformation and propaganda spread by animal rights activists. As well as fighting the corner for circus animals and their trainers, we are here to promote and celebrate the cultural heritage of circus in general, and especially in the country of its birth - Great Britain. For more information please see our Facebook group
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  1. Hello there! I am really curious about one thing, of course if I'm not asking too much could you please tell us where you grew up?

  2. Unfortunately due to the sensitive nature of this blog - you may have noticed the very dangerous nature of the opponents we take on - this information cannot be disclosed. This is a matter of very real security. Rouster is a collective of professionals and academics. Unless stated, all of the articles and posts are collaborative efforts and the authors wish to remain anonymous. Thank you for your interest. Seeing your interest in "X-Files" I wonder if there is a connection between your attraction to this particular post a lyric from The Bloodhound Gang song.