Stop Exploitation of Elephants at Renaissance Festivals

Target: Jim Peterson, Owner

Goal: End the practice of elephant rides at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

The renowned Minnesota Renaissance Festival has provided entertainment to thousands since 1971. The fair celebrates medieval times by recreating 16th century fashion, food, and activities all on the grounds of Shakopee, MN. While jousting and beer guzzling are notable pastimes, it is unnecessary for the festival to perpetuate animal cruelty by offering elephant rides to the public. Urge the owner of the festival, Mr. Jim Peterson, to not endorse this barbaric mistreatment of our planet’s largest land animal.

At first glance, it may be difficult to understand how elephants endure cruelty when they seem to happily walk in circles while small children and adults of all ages ride atop their backs. They seem groomed, well-fed, and perhaps even spoiled. The truth is anything but. While sitting on an elephant’s back does no lasting harm, the grueling process of preparing the animal for hobby riding is inhumane in every way imaginable. Trained elephants are captive elephants. To break them in, handlers deprive them of social contact with their fellow creatures and force them to live in confined areas. Because of their large size, they must be chained for hours each day, and many are beaten with whips or sticks if they fail to do exactly what their handlers wish them to.

These terrible living conditions result in foot conditions and arthritis, shortening the animal’s life significantly. But in the eyes of an elephant trainer, this is the only way to guarantee the safety of festival goers.

Even severe methods of training, however, cannot ensure that elephant riders will be safe on the back of a large, wild animal. In 1992, an 8,000-pound female Asian elephant bolted into the crowd out of fear and endangered the lives of many. While this reaction was completely normal for a wild animal, and no one was killed in the process, she was shot to death as a result. Because elephants are gentle by nature, many people forget that these creatures are meant to roam free – not in circles with chains around their ankles.

Elephant rides are blatant signs of brutality, and they are not a necessary component of medieval festivals that celebrate traditions we are proud of today. Tell festival owner Jim Peterson that our progressive society can happily celebrate the 16th century with a fare-thee-well to animal cruelty.


Dear Mr. Jim Peterson, Owner

Every year, your festival draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. While the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is a much anticipated event for many, it is regrettable that you endorse animal cruelty in the form of elephant rides. I would like to take time to let you know that I oppose this practice and urge you to ban these rides from your fair in the future.

These trained elephants endure barbaric exploitation at the hands of their instructors, and many are deprived socially in order to break them in. They live in confined areas and are chained for hours each day. Sadly, this is the only way to prepare them for the unnatural practice of hobby riding, despite the fact that they are wild animals intended for a natural, undomesticated environment. Still, you can combat this cruelty by refusing to endorse elephant rides, and I beg you to do so. Please be a proponent for animal welfare, and contribute to the end of this very disturbing practice.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Eric Parker via Flickr

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