By Sam Peshek
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked Texas A&M University in an open letter to Interim President Mark Hussey on Thursday that live elephants no longer be a part of the Elephant Walk tradition.
The animal advocacy group challenged Hussey and student organizers to end elephant involvement in the senior ceremony to ensure student safety and stop the exploitation of animals for entertainment purposes.
"The suffering that elephants used for entertainment are forced to endure is inexcusable, and this tradition is not worth maintaining," the letter read. "Captive elephants are denied everything that is natural and important to them, from space in which to roam and the opportunity to exercise in order to avoid debilitating arthritis and chronic foot problems to the company of their herd and occasions to socialize. Elephants don’t do headstands, walk in mundane circles with hundreds of pounds of people on their backs, and pose for pictures by choice — they do so because refusing means being struck with a bullhook, a sharp metal weapon resembling a fireplace poker."
Elephant Walk is an annual event that began in 1926 in which seniors walk around visiting campus landmarks the week before the last football game to replicate elephants who wander to look for a place to die when their value to the herd is over. This year’s 86th walk is scheduled for Nov. 8 at Simpson Drill Field.
PETA legal counsel Brittany Peet said the event was brought to the organization’s attention by "concerned citizens" who feared student lives were at risk by walking with the elephants.
Peet said the organization would not change its stance on the issue if all the elephants do is stand for photos with students like they have in recent Elephant Walks.
"Absolutely not," she said. "It’s no less cruel to have an elephant stand for a photo op."
Peet said Texas A&M has not responded to the letter and Texas A&M spokesman Shane Hinckley did not have a comment on PETA’s request as of Thursday night.
PETA requests that A&M cancel any planned appearance of animals for the walk and pledge to not use animals at live events. Peet said Texas A&M mascot Reveille VIII also falls under that category as animals can be frightened by large crowds.
"No animal belongs at events like sporting events," she said. "It’s just no place for an animal."