Elephants in Captivity

In Andrew Linzey & Clair Linzey (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Practical Animal Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan Uk. pp. 181-206 (2018)
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Abstract

Elephants are among the world’s most intelligent land mammals, with a social structure so complex it rivals that of human societies. When brought into captivity, elephants are subjected to conditions that are the opposite of the dynamic ecological and social environments to which they are evolutionarily adapted, causing varying degrees of physical and psychological deterioration, suffering, and premature death. Much of the debate over the welfare of captive elephants rightfully centers on these harms. However, far less attention is given to what it means for elephants when they are unable to fully engage in the seminal activities that define them as individuals. The ethical argument against confining elephants is rooted in the inherent limitations of captivity that make it impossible for these animals to wholly realize their physical, social, and cultural worlds.

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