Animal Rights Awareness Week has been around since 1991 and was created to honor and remember animals who have been subject to exploitation, harm, and death at the hands of humans around the world. This week is a time to both lift up the idea of animal rights and bring public awareness to the issues surrounding animal welfare around the world.
In South America, progressive legislation is being passed and animal autonomy is gradually being recognized at a national level. For instance, Cecilia the chimpanzee was declared a “non-human legal person” with “inherent rights.” Ramba’s importation to sanctuary was initially going to be taxed, but a judge ruled that she was not a “thing.” Many of the elephants at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil were released from unhealthy captivity by groups using legislation to prove that their needs as a species were not being met. All of the elephants currently residing at ESB have been relocated from either zoos or circuses – and have sometimes been subjected to both environments. But there are many who have nowhere to go and continue to languish in improper “homes.”
For instance, Maia came to sanctuary from the chains of circus and she was assumed to be a “bad girl,” especially in comparison to Guida who was treated more kindly by her handlers. These days, she has become a sister and guide for Guillermina as Guille learns about her new sanctuary life. Rana has both a circus and zoo past, and sanctuary has given her the opportunity to come into her own and become a sister to any elephant that needs her. Lady was a circus elephant for over 40 years before being sent to a zoo. She is finally able to receive the care she needs – and is being listened to perhaps for the first time ever. Mara spent several years in the circus before being sent to the zoo, where she spent 25 years. Now she has built a solid friendship with Rana and Bambi, and is opening herself up to the other elephants on her own time. Bambi spent over 40 years in the circus before being confiscated and sent to a zoo. She’s become a central member of the “Powerpuff Girls” and is a guiding sister for Guillermina – who was born in a concrete pit, never having access to the natural world. We can see her flourishing now as she settles into herself and her new home.
But legislation around the world has not kept up with the laws in South America. There are still elephants all over the globe who need a solution to prevent further damage that could be inflicted by zoos and circuses and other so-called “sanctuaries” that don’t take their needs fully into account.
What can you do? Stand up against animal cruelty in your community and be a representative for animals in harmful captivity whenever possible. Social media is a powerful tool to help educate others and perhaps ultimately to implement change. If your community has facilities that house elephants, ask questions about their living conditions. There may be groups that you can seek out that are working toward providing them with a better life. Grassroots movements have an impact, often being the impetus for larger welfare organizations to get involved. Even one person speaking out makes a difference in educating others to the plight of animals and their rights.
Photo of Rana and Mara