Target: Chester A. Gipson: Deputy Administrator of the United Stated Department of Agriculture
Goal: Demand that the USDA implement laws enforcing the proper treatment and care of elephants infected with TB.
It is common knowledge that elephants in circuses are often mistreated. What is less known is that tuberculosis among elephants in circuses has been documented since 1996. Elephants infected with TB are forced to perform in circuses despite their ill health, and not only are they thus treated inhumanely, but they also serve as a threat to other elephant, animal, and human populations whom they come into contact with.
It is the job of the Elephant Tuberculosis Subcommittee of the United States Animal Health Association to develop and recommend methods of TB prevention, testing and treatment for elephants. The United States Department of Agriculture claimed that its intention was to put the EST’s 2011 updated regulations into effect; however, there has been very minimal action taken to ensure that TB testing is even being done, let alone that infected animals are being given proper care and treatment.
Testing costs nearly $50,000 per animal, and elephants that test positive for TB are supposed to be restricted from performing for a minimum of six months. This coupled with the fact that circus veterinarians are those who are administering the TB tests to animals in the first place, makes it less than certain whether tests are being administered according to protocol or results themselves are being tampered with. Ironically to the detriment of both the circuses and the animals, the World Health Organization claims that “TB treatments that are inadequately followed can create drug resistant strains of the disease.”
Further, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that merely being in the same vicinity as an infected animal can lead to contamination in other animals, including human beings. Outbreaks of TB in Tennessee as well as Richmond, Illinois have been linked to infected elephants, and some of the infected peoples did not even come into contact with the infected elephants directly.
The USDA must implement stronger laws ensuring the safety and proper treatment of elephants both infected and healthy. The livelihood of animals in circuses as well as human beings who attend or work closely with circuses depends on the USDA’s actions, and it is time that a change is made.
Dear Mr. Gipson,
The treatment of circus animals is appalling as it stands, but when one considers a sickly animal with rights to treatment and care, issues of mistreatment become exacerbated. Elephants in circuses have been known to be infected with tuberculosis since 1996, and though the USDA has undergone efforts to implement guidelines concerning the care of these animals, it has not yet enforced such guidelines adequately. The USDA cannot be certain that potentially infected animals are being properly tested nor can it ensure that the treatment of infected animals is being carried out. These issues pose not only a threat to the humane treatment of elephants, but they also may prove to negatively affect other animals as well as humans.
The guidelines set in place are adequate start to addressing this issue; however, further efforts must be made to refine these guidelines so that they are less easy for circuses to evade. A more strict and stringent wording and implementation of these guidelines would suffice to prevent mistreatment and negligence towards circus animals infected with TB. It is your duty as the Deputy Administrator of the USDA to undertake this task and to ensure the safety of both circus animals and human beings.
[Your Name Here]