Elephant Enslaver Mark Gebel
Acquitted of Animal Abuse, Reasons Unclear
December 28, 2001
As you may know, Mark Gebel,
a star of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was acquitted
of criminal charges that he abused an Asian
elephant by striking her with a three-foot-long hook, known as an
"ankus," puncturing the creature on the left front leg.
I'd like to believe that the jury,
only two hours, acquitted Gebel because of two deficiencies in the
prosecution's evidence: the complaining witnesses did not actually see Gebel
make contact with the elephant, nor did they examine the elephant
immediately, but waited until the show was over.
More likely, I fear, is that the jury
probably didn't think it was such a big deal what Gebel did, in other words
buying the defense argument that even if Gebel did strike the elephant, the
wound was a "pinprick" on an 8,000 pound animal, the equivalent of
a paper cut.
Don't paper cuts hurt like hell?
Could you discipline your child, or a horse, by inflicting paper cut-type
wounds on them?
You've heard the expression
"death by a thousand paper cuts"? Maybe that's what the jury
deserves for their cruel verdict, if a cavalier disregard of the elephant's
mistreatment was indeed the cause of their returning a finding of not
You might note that while in the
headline to this commentary I was careful to say that Gebel was acquitted of
the abuse charge, I nevertheless felt confident in calling him an elephant
enslaver. Let Gebel sue me, because truth is a complete defense
against libel. It should not be hard to prove that forcing an elephant
to perform unnatural acts, and the rest of the time keeping the elephant
chained to the ground or in cramped cages as the circus travels around the
country, is enslaving the creature. [more on
As for the court loss here,
recall that with the lawsuits against tobacco companies, it took many years
of failure before the legal actions started to stick, and real change
occurred. The same will probably be the case in efforts to utilize the
legal system to stop abuse of circus animals. For example, in 1999 the
same witnesses as in the Gebel case "said they found evidence of
puncture wounds and cuts on seven Ringling elephants performing in San Jose,
but prosecutors said there was no way to determine whom to charge."
Similarly, last April the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and others sued
the Ringling Circus, charging that "carting the animals around the
country in tight cages constituted cruelty." The case was never
decided on the merits because the federal judge dismissed the case on the
grounds that the groups lacked standing to sue.
Cruelty which seems so
obvious to those with an open, compassionate heart is apparently written off
as just "the way the world is" by too many others. Let's
hope it doesn't take as many decades for these animal-cruelty-approving
attitudes to change, as it did to get tobacco company executives to admit
that smoking causes lung cancer!