Billie the elephant arrived in the United States from India shortly after her birth some 50 years ago. After being torn prematurely from her mother (who was most likely killed), Billie was sent to a zoo in Massachusetts where she spent 6 years giving rides to children and roaming her small enclosure.
Then in 1972 she was sold to the circus where she spent decades traveling thousands of miles with the circus in constant, agonizing pain.
‘Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top’ is a book written by Carol Bradley. The book, published l;ast week, describes the tortuous lifestyle Billie, like countless other elephants, endured in the circus. The abuse is not behavior-dependent. If they breathe they are brutalized, and for most, the only escape is death.
Billie is one of “lucky” ones. In 2006 she was rescued and brought to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Here she joined other elephants rescued from zoos and circuses. For a time she was unable to interact with the other elephants, lying low and hiding from their view. Her rightful trust issues were so intense that it would be 5 years until Billie allowed the sanctuary staff to remove her last remaining chain. She then picked it up with her trunk, inspected it for a moment, tossed it aside and walked away. Now Billie, whose favorite food is purportedly bananas, wanders freely amongst friends at the sanctuary.
Starvation, shocks, stabs, and beatings cause brain hemorrhaging and nerve damage, while lack of mobility leads to elongated cracked toenails infected by the gallons of festering sewage at their feet. According to an account by Opposing Views:
Another trainer beat an elephant so badly, she was lying on her side, heaving with sobs and tears running down her face. The handlers were so moved, they never beat her again and knelt down beside her to comfort her.
Most trainers never feel so much compassion. According to The Daily Mail:
In 1994, [an elephant named] Tyke went after a groom who came too close and trampled her trainer to death. She broke out of the circus arena in Hawaii and ran down streets, crushing cars and knocking one fifteen feet. Police felled her with eighty-seven bullets. Her autopsy revealed that she had massive nerve damage and a hemorrhaged brain – from so much physical abuse.
This is not a way of life; this is prolonged death. Exotic animals in circuses do not accurately reflect our ability for compassion, kindness, and sophistication. Please support cruelty-free entertainment.