In a recent video circulating around the Internet, elephants at a zoo near Toyko are seen painting pictures with their trunks. In an apparent celebration of the Year of the Dog, a four-year-old elephant holds a brush and paints the Chinese character for “dog,” while a three-year-old elephant paints a picture of a dog on white paper.

While the video seems innocent enough, it’s anything but. The elephants may seem to be performing out of their own free will, but it’s a clear red flag that something is wrong if an elephant is doing something they wouldn’t do in nature.


Similar to elephants used in the elephant trekking industry, young elephants used for painting must be broken. Over this time baby elephants are starved, shackled, and beaten until their spirit is broken and learn to submit to the will of their captors. Once young elephants have undergone this process they can begin learning to paint.

To train the elephant to move the brush to create stroke patterns that we recognize as flowers, trees, or even an elephant, the mahouts (the elephant handler) use painful bullhooks to guide the elephant’s movements. If an elephant paints incorrectly, they are beaten or physically hit on their head or trunk.

No animals deserve to suffer for the sake of our trivial entertainment. Not only are elephants extraordinarily complex animals, elephants are highly endangered in the wild due to ivory poaching. Knowing this, we need to do everything in our power to protect elephants, not use them for silly entertainment.

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Image Source: EuroNews/YouTube