The DODO reports a new video where we can see a captive elephant trudges through a snowy field, pulling a line of five sleds behind him. An adult rides on the first sled, while four children — all bundled up in coats, hats and snow pants — ride on the other sleds.
The children whoop and laugh as a trainer, carrying a whip, urges the elephant to keep moving forward.
“Come on, boy,” the trainer says in German. “Come on, big boy. That was fun, huh?”
The children may be having fun, but it’s unlikely the elephant would be having the same experience.
The elephant, named Mambo, is owned by a German circus company called the Reutlinger Weihnachtscircus that performs all over Europe. During these performances, Mambo, as well as five other elephants — Nanda, Tonga, Kimba and Betty — are forced to do unnatural tricks like stand on their back legs, balance on tiny stools and carry acrobats on their backs.
To get elephants to perform this way, they’re put through a brutal training processreferred to as a crush. Trainers will beat, starve and sleep deprive the elephants until their spirits are broken, and the elephants eventually choose to obey commands rather than experience more pain and trauma.
But it doesn’t stop there. Trainers continually use tools like whips, bullhooks and even stun guns to force elephants to perform, which places the animals in a perpetual state of fear.
While it’s not clear what prompted the circus company to take Mambo outside to pull kids in sleds, Will Anderson, elephant campaign associate for In Defense of Animals, believes it’s an irresponsible move — and one that doesn’t take the elephant’s well-being into account.