Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI expands efforts to help abused elephants

Posted: 2 August 2011. Updated: 16 April 2015

Animal Defenders International has expanded efforts to end cruel elephant rides, after ADI’s release of footage that shows Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) owners and trainers hitting and shocking elephants at their Perris, California compound.

More video evidence of movie elephant suffering... from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

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After ADI attended three separate meetings of the Santa Ana City Council, and our members flooded the Santa Ana Mayor and other decision makers with polite pleas to end the rides, we have positive progress to report: The Interim City Manager, Paul Walters has asked the Executive Director of Parks, Gerardo Mouet, to conduct an internal investigation into the cruelty allegations and video evidence that shows Tai, the elephant star of the movie, Water for Elephants, and other elephants being shocked, hit and ‘hooked’ with bullhooks during training. ADI has already had one initial meeting with city leaders and will continue to cooperate as the investigation gets underway this summer.


The city leaders of Sierra Madre made the decision to cancel the HTWT elephant from the Independence Day parade in Sierra Madre, CA, but were cancelled due to controversy caused by ADI’s undercover video.

Now the campaign has expanded to include efforts to educate leaders at the San Diego County Fair and Orange County Fair, where HTWT also is contracted to provide elephant rides.

ADI’s US Campaigns Director, Matt Rossell traveled to San Diego to attend the San Diego Fair Board of Directors meeting and delivered ADI’s video evidence of HTWT’s cruel treatment of their elephants and asked the board to cancel elephant rides at the San Diego County Fair. ADI is working in coalition with other animal protection groups to end the rides.

The president of the San Diego County Fair Board, Barry Nussbaum, directed his staff to investigate the allegations, but despite the public controversy, the board and staff proceeded with allowing elephant rides at the fair. ADI took a leadership role in organizing peaceful protests against the elephant rides, and hosted two successful outreach events totaling over 80 participants who educated thousands of area residents through the widespread media coverage!

The Coast News did a story about our presence at the meeting, “Groups claim elephant ride company abuses animals” and the Del Mar Times covered it as well, “Animal rights activists allege elephant abuse.”

San Diego’s ABC affiliate, 10 News ran this story, “Animal Activists Protest Elephant Rides At Fair, PETA, Animal Defenders International Protesting Against ‘Have Trunk Will Travel’ Over Treatment Of Elephants, where Kari Johnson, co-owner of Have Trunk Will Travel, finally speaks to the press about the undercover abuse footage. She surprisingly admits, “We saw the video footage and agree that it looks terrible.” And she also said, “It is our people and our elephants in the footage…” but also claims that things were taken out of context. We are asking in what context is it okay to violently beat, electric-shock and ‘hook’ elephants with bullhooks?!

Fox 5 in San Diego ran a great story before the first demonstration, “Alleged elephant abuse,” and then followed up with another story the next night, “Rock star urges County Fair to stop elephant rides.”

And this Union Tribune online article appeared Sunday June 12, “Protesters highlight fair’s use of elephants” and in the Monday print edition. Peter Rowe the reporter said that it will also be in today’s print edition.

ADI is engaging decision makers at the Orange County Fair similarly, and have hosted two successful outreach events to educate Orange County fair-goers which continues through Aug 14th.

ADI is determined to make a difference for these animals, and with your help, we will.

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