TUCSON, AZ—Cheers, laughter, and applause filled the big top tent at the Ringling Bros. Circus Saturday as children of all ages were captivated by the savage enslavement of Topsy the elephant.
Whether young or just young at heart, thrilled audience members watched with glee as a circus trainer forced the frightened Topsy to perform tricks by brutally poking and prodding the traumatized 4-year-old pachyderm.
"He's such a funny happy elephant," said 8-year-old Madison Helms, referring to the abused creature that spends the majority of his time chained up in a cramped, feces-covered enclosure. "He loves being in the circus!"
The crowd reportedly let out loud gasps and vigorously clapped when Topsy stood up on his hind legs, an unnatural and excruciatingly painful movement that stresses and permanently damages the 8,000-pound elephant's joints.
Topsy also delighted the audience after the trainer repeatedly thrust a hooked rod into his skin, causing the miserable animal to lift one leg and his trunk to simulate waving.
"Aww…" said the assembled circus-goers, who were taken by the cuteness of the barbaric spectacle.
Branden Helger, 9, said Topsy was his favorite performer at Ringling Bros. because the elephant knew how to do neat tricks like pretending to limp. The third-grader also excitedly pointed out the "cool necklace" clamped on the animal's foot.
Topsy and the other elephant performers, who are separated from each other at all times, preventing the socialization that's so crucial to their well-being, received a standing ovation from the crowd when they marched into the center ring, nervously rocking back and forth.
"Look, they're dancing," said 5-year-old Jonah Meeks, mistaking the elephants' constant swaying for something that wasn't a maladaptive behavior caused by serious psychological trauma. "I can dance like an elephant, too. Look at me!"
Unaware that the elephant was terrified of the glaring stage lights, deafening crowd noise, and constant beatings, Phil Wingren, who brought his family to the circus, remarked that Topsy must relish being a star.
"Boy, that Topsy's got it made," Wingren said to his children, referring to the mistreated, severely neglected creature, who is exposed to numerous diseases and receives no medical attention except when dirt is rubbed into his wounds to hide them from the public. "Always in the spotlight and everybody pampering you. That lucky elephant."
"Look, he even has his own ball," continued Wingren, referring to the most hated object in Topsy's life.
Attending the circus with her grandparents, Gretchen Anderson, 4, was delighted by Topsy and by the other pachyderms as well.
"There's his mama," Anderson said of an elephant unrelated to Topsy, who has not seen his parents since being torn away from them shortly after birth, and last nestled up to his mother when he tried to suckle at her corpse shortly after poachers killed her. "They have a big happy family."
Eyewitnesses who spotted the trainer patting the side of Topsy's body during the final trick were convinced the elephant and the man were best friends, though in fact the look of reverie on Topsy's face was the result of his daydreaming about stomping and crushing the cruel asshole's head like an overripe melon.