Famed actor and comedian Lily Tomlin is our newest ally in the fight to stop an unsafe and inhumane elephant facility in Hope, Maine. She's written to Maine Governor LePage, urging him to oppose this well-intended but misguided plan that would cruelly keep a single elephant in inadequate conditions and is fraught with public safety problems.
The proposed 'sanctuary' would bring an elephant named Rosie from a circus-owned facility where she is not performing to live by herself in a small enclosure and cold weather conditions that will force her to spend most of the year indoors. The town of Hope has approved construction of the facility, but there are state and federal permits that still must be obtained.
The person promoting the facility is a veterinarian who says he would provide special therapies for Rosie's arthritis, but veterinarians expert in elephant care agree that these therapies cannot overcome the negative effects of confining an arthritic elephant to a small pen in a cold environment. So Rosie's quality of life would not be improved, and given that she would be kept alone, would be worsened. (Despite claims that another elephant could be acquired, there is not enough room for one elephant, much less two.)
There also are grave human safety concerns that include a handler who does not have the experience required to safely handle an elephant, use of unsafe and inhumane training methods (including use of the bullhook, a weapon resembling a fireplace poker that is used to control elephants through fear of painful punishment), and the threat of tuberculosis, which is transmissible to humans.
Rosie deserves a better home. If the veterinarian promoting this plan really wants to do what's best for Rosie, he would use his influence with the circus (where he formerly worked) and help send her to an already established sanctuary, where she would be provided specialized care from a staff of highly trained caretakers, the company of other elephants, and vast space to roam in a far more temperate climate.
Though the idea of helping Rosie is commendable, she will suffer in
Maine. Elephants are not meant to live alone or to spend all their time
inside a cramped barn. And, as Lily Tomlin wrote, 'There is nothing
educational about seeing an elephant, alone and miserable, incessantly
rocking from side to side.'