When Elephants Weep

The image paired with this narrative is in the art section.
Most people who work closely with animals, such as animal trainers, take it as a matter of fact that animals have emotions. Accounts by those who work with elephants, for example, make it clear that training an animal will meet with little success if the trainer has no insight into the animal’s feelings. I contribute to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee that rescues elephants from the cruel conditions of abuse, especially as victims of neglect and injury when confined to work in circuses. The stories iof these wounded and sensitive animals are profoundly touching. After 26 years of torment as a circus animal, Jenny who had many leg and foot injuries was rescued by this sanctuary. She did not know that her mother Shirley or aunt had been rescued years before her. When Jenny met Shirley, her mother, they recognized each other instantly and locked trunks for a long time to show the deep bonds that were formed as a young elephant. Jenny’s cruel years at the circus and the strong bonds of family were as strong as the day Shirley helplessly saw her daughter chained and taken away from her mother. Elephants are a very sensitive animals and their long term memories are astounding. They grieve and mourn the loss of their family much in the way we would if a family member was abducted against their will. Most scientists working with animals in the wild make infereces based on empathy to make sense of their behavior, such as, “If I had just lost my closest companion, I, too would not feel like eating for some time.” Thinking about feelings has proven to be a valuable way of thinking about behavior. Viewing elephants in their natural habitat is an extraordinary experience. I took several pictures of herds during a trip to Africa, one that shows a mother and four generations of her family. This bark photograph like my other abstracts can be interpreted in many ways. It has great color and texture so there are many images within the larger image. Using the larger format to view this photograph will give you the opportunity to project what you see. Although, I perceive many images, I saw the trunks of elephants immediately. This was a synchonistic event since at the time, I was scanning my photos of elephants in the wild and had just read the articles that the elephant sanctuary had sent me. The stories are so touching and painful that often they were difficult to read. The torment and punitive actions by trainers, those who kill for their ivory and skins and the lack of understanding of their emotional lives is tragic. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson was a controversial Psychiatrist before he devoted himself to writing scholarly and compelling book about animals. His books which include When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs and The Pig Who Sang to the Moon offer amazing insights into the emotional life of animals. In hia profoundly important and groundbreaking book about farm animals, Jeffrey Massson reveals startling evidence that farm animals have feelings, even consciousness-and bears witness to the emotions and intelligence off these remarkable barnyard creatures, each unique with distinct qualities. Weaving history, literature, anecdotes, scientific studies and his own vivid experience, Dr. Masson observed these gentle beasts and shatters the abhorrent myth of the “dumb animal without feelings.” He writes about the cow whose calves are removed at birth, and who is then milked intentionally for a few years. As the author points out, “she is kept almost permanently pregnant to keep her milk flowing-while not allowed to keep her calf. Finally, old before her time, her usefulness for giving milk in decline, that same cow is killed, long before her natural life span has been reached.” To the extent that we prevent an animal from living the way he or she evolved to live by viewing animals as commodities exploited for their flesh, their hide, or any other body product is a tragic situation. As for pigs, there are 268,498 killed every twenty-four hours in the US alone. Jeffrey’s books are controversial, especially to those who are indifferent and ignore that animals have feelings. He boldly presents his point of view despite those who think he is “ridiculous.” He states, "Why is it generally considered ridiculous to point out that each and every one of those animals killed had a mother, almost all had siblings, and surely some were mourned by a parent or missed by a friend? Even though they were bread to be killed, their emotional capacities were not altered by such breeding. They had memories, they suffered and they grieved. I believe that everyone has a choice to be a vegetarian or to consume the meat of animals. The choice to not eat meat is a gut feeling a a committed transition that can only take place after the individual has the facts, lives with animals and believes he is making an ethical decision. I stopped eating meat about 25 years ago when I took my family to a restaurant known for its baby back ribs. All of a sudden, I looked at the plate piled high with ribs and began to cry. Although I intellectually never wanted to eat animals, that was not enough to stop me. At the restaurant that night, my emotional reaction was intense and subsequently I could never eat meat again. As a child, Charlotte’s Web was stained with tears. I could not understand how anyone could kill a darling pig because he was the runt of the litter. My sensitivity to animals began in childhood and continues to today. The choice I made was appropriate to my sensibilities. However, I do believe that it is important to give this issue thought as I did many times before reaching a point that I could no longer eat animals. and not be blind to the pain and suffering of these captive animals. Masson asks “it we don’t think about this issue, are we not morally blind, ethically impoverished and humanly remiss”? I will post some photos of elephants in Africa to continue this narrative. I want you to know about the work of an autistic adult who thinks in pictures and has written an extraordinary book, Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism and Animals in Translation. Temple Grandin Ph.D. is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock handling facilities. She tells us how she managed to bridge the gap between her condition and our own. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas who wrote the brilliant book The Hidden Life of Dogs states, “I hardly know what to say about this remarkable book…It provides a way to understand the many kinds of sentience, human and animal, that adorn the earth.”

Recommended reading:
Author: Jeffrey Masson
When Elephants Weep
Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs
The Pig Who Sang to The Moon
Author: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas ( my bible for dog training with love)
The Hidden Lives of Dogs
Author: Temple Grandin
My Life With Autism
Animals In Translation
Author: EB White
Charlottes’s Web :) :)

When Elephants Weep

Julie Marks

Los Angeles, United States

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