By: Danielle White
“Camels will be on the commons on hump day to celebrate Wednesday, brought to you by SGA.”
When I heard that, I thought it had to be a joke. Unfortunately, not. I walked out of the library at about 1pm, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sure enough I saw two camels being swarmed by Elon students. Being me, I marched straight over to assess the situation. I approached the woman who was holding the leash of one of the camels, and I began asking her some questions.
Some questions you might not have thought to ask (These are from my memory so not exact quotes):
- What kind of organization are you? Conservatory? Zoo?
We travel with our animals to various events. We usually have people ride them, but Elon wasn’t interested in rides.
- Why do you have camels?
My family originally got them when we wanted to do a nativity scene. The person we bought them from (I didn’t catch who) wanted to sell them instead of rent them to us, so we ended up buying them. They are for entertainment purposes.
- Where do you get them now?
We bred them.
- What are the facilities?
We have a farm with various kinds of animals. These camels, horses, miniature horses…
- How many acres do you have?
We had 163, but we just sold off 100. (I think she said they sold them because they are always on the road?)
She kept trying to assure me that they are USDA certified. I can tell you, that did NOT assure me of anything.
Basically, a family of people decided to become a business because they wanted to buy some camels for a nativity one year. It’s a regular farm in the middle of North Carolina. They always come to you. You cannot come visit the animals on their property. They are now breeding them to keep the business going.
I was bombarded with photos of these camels all day, and since I believe in speaking for those who cannot, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
Animals are not, should not, and can no longer be considered “for entertainment purposes.” We, as a society, need to move away from this ego-centric worldview. Animals in captivity, even those that are treated well, do not have the quality of life that would be afforded them in the wild. Animals are born into the Earth the same as we are, and yet we so easily pass them off as play things, here to entertain and amuse us.
Bringing these animals to our campus is no different than supporting circuses with animal acts, or going to zoos, or visiting places like SeaWorld. I understand it was $1,500 to bring them (information from Elon Local News twitter account). But the amount of money that was spent doesn’t matter. It could have been $2 or $20,000, and the impact would be the same. The treatment of animals in these types of facilitates and for entertainment purposes is poor to say the least. Look it up! Understand where your money is going when you buy tickets for these events. Every dollar you spend is a vote. When you spend money toward animal entertainment like this, you are saying, “Yes. I support the continued awful treatment of these animals, their continued breeding, and the captivity of them for as long as they live (and as short, because animals in captivity die younger than those in the wild).”
I am not saying that if you took a picture with the camels today you are a bad person. I loved the camels too, and I know that every single one of people who took a picture loved them too. I am saying we need to be educated about the impact an event like this has and what it says Elon and the student body accept in regards to the treatment of animals. Get educated, understand the different between conservatory and zoo, bred in captivity and rescued, and plans for release or not.
One student, ONE gave this idea to SGA, and then it was proceeded with. I want to know who made this decision. Whose opinion and permission was given for this event? Did they not think to ask the students if we WANTED this to happen? I never heard about it until the day before. Elon strives to let student opinion be heard. Well, I feel this was a missed opportunity for the voice of those who were unhappy to see these animals carted to our campus. Animal cruelty comes in many forms, some outright, like slashing circus elephants legs to make them move or slaughtering white tigers because they were born with a clef lip or deformed face thanks to inbreeding, or they can be more subtle, like traveling camels across the states for rides and pictures.
They may have only traveled about an hour to get here, in their tiny metal box, but the Carolina Camel Rides website says they go as far as Tennessee and Florida, which could be up to 14 hours away. The quality of life of these camels and other entertainment animals is awful. Some ask, but if they don’t know any better… But guess what? We do. WE know better. Or at least we should. I am asking that we know better for the future. I saw that this was “hopefully going to be an annual event.” Let’s not allow that to happen. Let’s be the educated and compassionate students I know we are and ask SGA and Elon to prevent this from happening again.
As students, we need to stand up and expect better from our university.
Speak for those without a voice.