Reader Thankful For Elephant Protection Act

To The Reader’s Forum:

As 2017 draws to a close and time is taken to reflect upon the year’s challenges and accomplishments, successes and letdowns, there is something for which I and I am sure fellow animal advocates are extremely grateful. In fact, a part of me still has difficulty believing what an answer to many prayers and a dream come true this is.

In October, the Elephant Protection Act (S2098B/A464B) was signed into legislation by Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is quoted on New York state’s website as saying, “The use of elephants in these types of settings (circuses, carnivals, parades or trade shows) is dangerous to their health and potentially abusive.” On the same website, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin shares her concerns stating that, “Elephants have been exploited and abused in entertainment acts for too long. Confinement, torture and unhealthy living conditions have led to early death for these intelligent, gentle animals. Today, New York has become the leader in ending this horrible practice. Elephants will no longer be subjected to cruel treatment for our amusement.”

For many years, advocates for animals have been expressing the very same sentiments. It was over 20 years ago when I joined in the struggle to bring attention to the plight of these magnificent animals and the living conditions they were forced to endure for “entertainment” purposes. I recall one individual at that time predicting that within 10 years, elephants in circuses would become a thing of the past. It has actually taken more than a decade longer, and there is still work to be done to convince every state in our country to follow New York’s compassionate example.

The long and uphill battle waged by activists for any cause can include letters to policy makers and newspapers, tabling at community events, staging protests and more. The efforts can seem hopeless and difficult at times. I can attest that taking part in protests could be uncomfortable; however, I knew the animals’ discomfort far outweighed mine.

But legislation like this is validation that all the efforts are worth it and that our policymakers will listen and do care. Their work and success on this Act has inspired me, and I hope it inspires others to carry on and to never give up when a cause is for justice — whether it is for animals, children, the elderly, the disabled, the exploited or others. Although anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous quote has been shared innumerable times, her words have rung true again and again: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” A great deal of thanks is owed to Governor Cuomo and those who voted for the Elephant Protection Act. They have set an example of empathy and kindness in helping those who cannot help themselves.

Christine Wigren