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Doris Lin

Elephants, Circuses, Descartes and Kant

By December 2, 2008

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Ringling Elephant Performing
An elephant being forced to perform a headstand in the Ringling Bros. circus.
Photo by Scott Wintrow / Getty Images.

Cruelty to elephants in circuses is issue that mainstream America is catching on to. Most of the elephants used in circuses are Asian elephants, which are even more endangered than African elephants. How can any circus provide an environment that is comparable to the vast jungles of Asia or the plains of Africa? How can they treat endangered species as commodities, and what kinds of training tactics are used to force them to do tricks?

Guest author Mike Jaynes explores these issues in a series of articles titled, "The Saddest Show on Earth: Elephant (Ab)use in Touring Circuses." Part one of the series is entitled, "Descartes and Kant: Self-Proclaimed Lords of Nature and Fathers of Animal Apathy," and examines how these two philosophers have shaped the way our society views animals and animals rights. Future installments will be posted over the next few weeks, and will examine the issue in more detail, including elephant biology and physiology, death and abuse suffered by elephants in circuses, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Animal Welfare Act, and the tragic story of Stoney who performed and died at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas.


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