A Florida elementary school is under attack from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for taking pupils to a show featuring Santa Claus riding a circus elephant.
Over 100 students at Blackburn Elementary School in Palmetto, Florida were entertained last week by the visiting Ringling Bros. circus, which delighted children with a performance of Asia, an 8,400-pound Asian elephant. As a reminder of the holiday season, Asia carried around Santa Claus, and also wore a special elephant-sized Santa hat herself. The visit was a reward for students who had performed best in the school’s system for encouraging positive behavior.
However, PETA argues that what students were actually being subjected to was a display in animal cruelty. Having Santa ride on top of Asia, they said, was particularly nasty because they allege that the elephant has a history of lameness.
PETA has long opposed the use of animals for entertainment purposes, including as circus animals. The group argues that circus elephants are routinely subjected to beatings, electric shocks, and other abusive treatment in order to compel them to perform for audiences. Ringling Bros. in particular has often been the subject of criticism, with one of the group’s websites labeling their operation “The Saddest Show on Earth.”
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“Schools should teach kids to respect and empathize with others, not that it’s OK to use and abuse animals for ‘entertainment,'” said PETA’s Marta Holmberg in a statement. “[We] wants teachers and parents to realize that there’s nothing festive or child-friendly about taking elephants away from their families, beating and chaining them, and depriving them of everything that’s natural and important to them.”
This isn’t the first time PETA has become upset about animals’ involvement in a Christmas celebration, either, as Santa appearances involving reindeer have repeatedly sparked the group’s ire.
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