Elephant painting “enrichment” at the Oregon Zoo.
I wonder why people travel overseas and suddenly think it’s okay to abuse elephants…until I remember that the modern zoo in America has managed to put a really positive spin on elephant abuse and make it so mainstream people don’t even know they’re participating in it, here or abroad.
Zoos tell people that elephant painting is enriching for the animal, despite painting not being a natural elephant behavior, having no research to support this claim and there now being a scientific study that has shown painting does not reduce stress-related stereotypies in elephants [x][x]. The truth is elephant paintings are big money makers (Zoo Atlanta has charged up to $1800 per painting) both as a kind of show and as a product to be sold [x][x][x][x][x][x]. And lest we forget, the lucrative corporate sponsorship opportunities with Benjamin Moore!
Still, while zoos are perfectly happy to portray their elephants as creative and self-motivated painters, they’d would like you to keep in mind that anthropomorphism is bad. Basically, the elephants are artists, they’re just not the tortured kind.
The big question is, who’s really getting “enriched” here? The elephant blowing paint out of the world’s most advanced and sensitive nose, or the zoo’s wallet?
Please don’t support elephant painting, or any elephant exploitation, here or overseas.