In response to a letter the actress sent to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, asking her to ensure that Ringling Bros. refrain from the use of bullhooks to prod their circus elephants at their upcoming Baltimore performance, a spokesperson for the circus fired back at Jada Pinkett Smith, saying, “She doesn’t know the first thing about elephants or about how to take care of them.” In his opinion Pinkett Smith is being “misled” by PETA, the organization that distributed the letter. He invited the star to visit the elephants to see first-hand that the elephants are treated humanely, and not harmed by their handlers as her letter alleges.
But it’s really probably a more fundamental ethical rift. Which is to say, though the focus is on the billhooks, PETA (and, apparently Jada Pinkett Smith) views the involuntary servitude of these elephants as inherently unethical. So Pinkett Smith could show up to the circus to find the elephants in La-Z-Boys watching a Desperate Housewives marathon while their handlers fed them peeled grapes, and it probably wouldn’t change her attitude toward the use of wild animals in circus performances. It’s this basic difference of opinion regarding man’s rights over animals that keeps people on either side of the issue feeling like the opposition is out of its mind. On the other hand, it’s also what keeps us knee-deep in hot, nude PETA ads.