At the “Hooray for HollyWOOF” fundraiser benefiting Dogs for the Deaf and Generation Rescue, Betty White offered her opinion on Superior Court Judge Segal’s ruling of the LA Zoo “Elephants of Asia” exhibit as being just short of abusive. Judge Segal described the elephant’s lives as “empty, purposeless, boring and occasionally painful.”
Ms. White was strongly supportive of the LA Zoo and the work they do, adamantly stating, “I’ve worked with the Los Angeles Zoo for 50 years and I know those elephant keepers and I know the care and the support that they give. If we don’t start breeding elephants in captivity, it’s not gonna [sic] be very long at all that we are out of elephants. Because we have just not supported them at all. Believe me, I’m very much on the side of the elephants being, of course, well cared for. They are amazing animals.”
On Tuesday, July 24th, 2012, Judge Segal issued his 56 page ruling, stating, “The Elephants of Asia exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo is not a happy place for elephants, nor is it for members of the public who go to the zoo and recognize that the elephants are neither thriving, happy, nor content. Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species, which the undisputed evidence shows elephants are. To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Billy, Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor.”
Judge Segal issued an injunction prohibiting the use of bull hooks and electric shock and requiring that the elephants be exercised at least 2 hours a day and that the packed soil be tilled regularly to help with any joint pain caused by prolonged standing on the packed dirt.
The Earth in Translation website provided quotes from other involved parties, including David Casselman, the attorney representing the elephants. Casselman stated, “We’re very pleased that the court recognized the substandard and horrific conditions at the Los Angeles Zoo elephant exhibit. The legal questions that remain, regarding how to respond to these problems, will continue. But the public should now be well aware that the decades-long representations of excellent care and superior knowledge are extremely unfounded and the city should take a serious look at closing this exhibit with or without a further court order.”
Aaron Leider, the plaintiff, said, “The elephants lives will be better and for the first time in history a Judge has ordered a zoo to improve its care of their animals. Most significantly are the Factual Findings, these will become the historic cornerstone of our movement to close all elephant exhibits in zoos.”
Several animal rights organizations made their opinion of the Judge’s ruling very clear. On the In Defense of Animals (IDA) website, the Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle states, “Today’s decision sends a clear message that the Los Angeles Zoo’s $42 million exhibit has not improved the elephants’ health or well-being. It’s time to close the elephant exhibit and send the elephants to a sanctuary.”
Last Chance for Animal’s President, Chris Derose, stated, “I applaud the decision of Judge Segal and actions of Aaron Leider and the late Robert Culp. The L.A. Zoo elephant exhibit should be closed for good and the elephants relocated to a sanctuary where they can have the room they need to roam, forage and bond with other elephants. To quote Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, ‘A zoo is not an appropriate place for an animal as large as an elephant.'”
According to the Earth in Translation website, the LA Zoo released a prepared statement saying, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion regarding the competency and validity of our elephant program. As the people who provide the day to day care for these animals we are competent in what we do and dedicated to the well-being of our elephants.”
Should the LA Zoo release the elephants to a sanctuary? Has the new enclosure enriched the elephants lives? Share your opinions in the comments below.