It's Earth Day and We LOVE Seeds!
Arte for Elephants just came off of the single best weekend we have ever had!! We did a three day, spring arts and crafts festival in lovely downtown Lompoc, California, a charming community in the coastal region of Central California (made famous by the movie, Sideways). It seemed that EVERYONE in Lompoc was super hot to help elephants. We raised money and donated a whopping $325 today to the Global Sanctuary for Elephants in Brazil.
But if you've ever been to an Arte for Elephants booth, you know darned well, it's not just about the money it's also, really, about education.
Actually, it's more about planting SEEDS.
Most people love elephants, and people generally know a bit about the ivory poaching crisis (which has been widely covered in the media) what is less known however, is the plight of captive elephants and the absolute abomination that is elephant riding. Here is where it gets tricky; picture this scenario:
Guy "Wow I just LOVE elephants! My girlfriend and I rode an elephant in Thailand it was SO AMAZING!".
Or this one:
Lady "I love elephants so much, I got to RIDE one at the Renaissance Fair in Kansas City last year!"
Now here we are, faced with a dilemma, obviously, these people aren't trying to be malicious or cruel, they genuinely don't know that there is anything wrong with that they have done, they certainly don't want to, or deserve to be shamed into thinking their treasured vacation memory is cruelty incarnate (which it is). BUT we can't have them running around, perpetuating the industry that exists by kidnapping infant elephants and beating them half dead into submission so that more tourists can ride them, now can we? What to do?
Here is where the SEEDS come in.
We usually start with something along the lines of, "What a great memory! It's nice to know that there are so many, new options for humane tourism popping up lately, now that we know how bad giving rides is for elephants". There, the SEED has been thrown out.
9 times out of 10, they look slightly confused and this is your chance to water that sucker (the seed not the person!). " Did you know that an elephants' spine points upwards, so that their spines crack and break over time? Don't feel bad, most riding companies don't want you to know that, but it's really agony for the elephant. The good news is, there are lots of places you can visit now, where you can observe elephants and make food for them and really do wonderful things without causing them horrible harm".. that USUALLY works, and there, now they have that seed in their head, that kernel of information letting them know that riding elephants is bad. It's been presented as totally new information, so they don't feel ashamed and defensive (usually).
From time to time, we get to watch an entire TREE grow before our eyes, and the person will be genuinely interested in finding out more.. then we plant lots of seeds, we tell them about the horrible "crush" training, the brutality of the bull hook, the problem of freed captive circus and zoo elephants and on an on.. before you know it.. BAM a whole orchard has taken root and you just know that this person is going to go out and plant their own batch of information seeds!