Kudos to the Orange County Fair Board for making the ethical decision to spare elephants from a grim life of billhooks and boredom. Science has shown the depth and reach of elephants' intelligence and emotional range.
Elephants are self-aware and empathetic, plan ahead and enjoy rich and complicated social systems. They mourn their dead. And they feel pain and distress when hit with billhooks — heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on the end that handlers use to keep them under control.
They miss the company of their family and friends when stored like inventory waiting to be rented out. And the only way to get a wild animal like an elephant to be docile enough to give rides is to break the animal as an infant — that is, literally to rope, beat and electrically shock a 1-year-old baby into submission.
Treating elephants — or any living beings — in this manner is indefensible, and the Fair Board did the right thing by putting this cruel system in the history books where it belongs.
I'm proud to live in a city that can muster the courage to do the right thing for elephants. Better yet, now I'll enjoy myself more when I go to the county fair.
Elephants were not abused
Is it OK for cowboys to break and ride broncos so they can do a better job with their cattle?
OK to have seeing-eye dogs lead the blind or service dogs assist other handicapped people?
For police to use drug-sniffing dogs?
Or to train chimps to reach for this thing or that thing that are out of reach for paralyzed people?
OK for horses and oxen to do hard work to help many farmers across our country?
For horses to pull the Amish around in their buggies?
Or carriage drivers to haul honeymooners and tourists around?
For mules to carry tourists down into the Grand Canyon?
For the Navy to strap explosives onto dolphins and send them off to bomb enemy warships?
For the Army to train pigeons to carry messages for us in wars gone by?