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Animals should never be required to earn a living, right? Animals earning their keep is down right cruelty and undignified at that, or at least that is what HSUS and PETA would lead you to believe.

For the most part, the majority of people on earth have to earn a living to survive, and so do animals in the wild in their own way. So why is it, that it’s wrong for animals in human care to engage in commercial activity? Perhaps it isn’t wrong at all and actually leads to a better life for all animals!

I’m going to use circus elephants as a case study here, although almost any animal fits this model. As you probably have heard the biggest stars of The Greatest Show on Earth are hanging up their signature headpieces and heading trunk first to the Center for Elephant Conservation. The CEC is a totally unique facility in that it was specially designed to maintain the Western hemispheres largest herd of Asian Elephants. The center is located on 200 pristine acres in Central Florida with a state of the art facility that was built to serve every need that an Asian Elephant might have. The facility is staffed with the best in the elephant husbandry business, and a top of the line veterinary staff. The CEC even has its own staff research scientist that devotes all her time to elephant reproduction and ensuring that we have elephants for many generations to come.

Now as you can imagine a facility like that doesn’t come cheap! It costs an average of $65,000 a year to take care of each of the elephants that call the center home. So where do the funds come from to run this elephant enterprise? In a round about way the elephants earned this money and are now reaping the rewards. Years of touring and performing with the circus has allowed for a very cushy lifestyle for these larger than life performers. I mean a huge farm in Florida and world-class vet care on an unlimited healthcare budget, I wish we could all be so lucky.

The argument will be made by some that the same results could be achieved by a non-profit soliciting donations from the American public. Sure, it’s possible but highly unlikely. There are many animal facilities that rely solely on donations and are able to take care of their animals. However none of them are able to get within 100 miles of the quality of facility and conservation work that elephants performing in the circus has funded. The revenue that the circus has generated has led to 26 births at the elephant center and helps pay for conservation work with wild elephants as well.

The moral of the story is that as usual the public has been sold a bill of goods by the animal rights industry. The Ringling elephants were able to entertain untold numbers of children, spread the message of conservation, and potentially save their species all by just traveling with the circus. These pampered pachyderms are being well compensated for their “work”.  Obviously this entire idea of working for a living is a human concept and not something that animals can comprehend. Although regardless of comprehension the result is the same, hard work pays off, especially if you are the biggest stars of the world’s most famous circus. The elephants may be coming off the road in the next few years, but their hard work will pay dividends for generations of Asian Elephants.

—-Gavin Livingston

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