• T. Rutter

Humanity, Captive


As a hot, smoky (at least here in Northern California) summer draws to an end and fall closes in with her color and change, we are granted a precious, and let’s admit it, rather tiresome chance to contemplate captivity both our own and that of our fellow creatures.


Back in January, when Arte for Elephants returned from hosting our amazing Big Elephant Magic Safari in Kenya, the year seemed ripe with the promise of growth; a full schedule of sold out retreats, a bustling slate of big art shows, etc. We wondered how we could possibly catch our breath long enough to be present for all of the things we needed to be present for. Enter February and as we all know, our lives and the lives of our family, friends, fans and even the elephants we are working to save hit a big, collective PAUSE button. Tourism vanished overnight, art shows big and small withered as organizers struggled with the “new normal”.


Suddenly the lives of intelligent, captive wildlife didn’t seem so very different from our own. Like an elephant captured in the expansive wilds of Africa or Asia and plopped into a concrete zoo enclosure, our lives of travel, excitement and connections grew barren and monotonous. Zoom conferencing (like affection from a paid zookeeper) is a lousy substitute for a loving hug from a dear friend or meeting your family around a holiday table.

At this point, 7 months in, even the most even tempered of my friends are feeling just done with the whole thing. Screw the masks, the distance, the limitations, I’ll take my chances and risk illness to gain that connection and that freedom.

What a golden opportunity then for us human beings to really look at and appreciate the lives of our captive animal brothers and sisters. Pigs in gestation crates, cows in factory farms, elephants in concrete zoos, bile bears, primates in research cages, orcas swimming round and round for decades without end to provide a 30-minute performance for humans. Now we must really ask ourselves this question and mean it.

“Are OUR needs that much more important than theirs?”

As we struggle with our collective scream to give us back our familiar, expansive lives of plans and connection, imagine how a baby monkey ripped from their mother for medical tests feels. As we wear those hot, uncomfortable masks on our faces, imagine a baby elephant undergoing the crush in a small bamboo box.


One of mankind’s greatest gifts if our ability to experience empathy, with each other and with the amazing animals we share this little globe with. As you chafe against your limitations, spare a thought for the lives of animals we use for food, entertainment, research and education.

It is my dearest wish that this experience will change the dialogue from a vague need to make things better for our captive brethren to a profound, inner understanding of their pain and suffering and an energized recommitment to righting what we intimately understand is a great and terrible injustice.



Thyra Rutter is Artist & Founder of Arte for Elephants a philanthropic endeavor that raises money for wildlife sanctuaries throughout the world through the sale of art and humane travel. www.arteforelephants.net

Creating Hope since 2015



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