It's likely the Piccadilly Circus thought it was doing a noble thing by dispatching one of its elephants to assist with debris cleanup after last week's tornado in Joplin, Missouri. But not everyone is so thrilled with the four-legged volunteer. In fact, the circus animal -- which has been being used to drag vehicles closer to the street so they can be removed -- is creating quite a controversy in the community.
First there's the animal rights activists who are outraged because they think the elephant is being exploited. One resident explained:
It's sad that they would put an animal through it.
Others are accusing the circus of using its elephant in aid efforts as a publicity stunt. And, then there's those residents who think using an elephant is generally a bad idea:
I think that the circus people generally want to help ... but I think it's dangerous for the people standing so near the elephant. It's a wild animal. Even thought it's trained, you see it all the time. It's just not a good idea.
For real? Elephants are one of the strongest animals in the world and have been used for centuries to lift, move, and carry heavy objects. So, the idea of using them to move some dilapidated vehicles around in Joplin doesn't sound like animal abuse to me. In fact, it sounds like a day of honest work. (Unless, of course, they are being overworked and underfed, but there's no evidence coming out of Joplin to suggest this is the case.)
And as for it being a publicity stunt: Offers to help the people of Joplin are coming from all places these days -- how is this any different? As long as proper safety precautions are taken and the elephant handlers are present, how is this situation any more dangerous than the elephant being in the circus? It's too bad this offer of help is creating such a big riff in the town -- especially at a time when everyone should be coming together.