Have you ever worked with elephants? If so, were they captive or wild? Which populations? What work were you doing?Horses have been artificially selected for performance purposes and elephants have not. Due to their long gestation periods, many elephants are wild-caught and then trained to perform completely unnatural acts (of course, then the response about how natural horseback riding is). The fact that electric prods, chains, and bull hooks need to be used just to manage these animals tells me that maybe they should not be circus performers.
Here is my background in elephants:
120 hour husbandry internship with asian elephants (ne indian subcontinent) at a zoo
90 hours anthrax testing elephant populations in europe at zoos, various origins
720 hours of round the clock elephant travel to treat livestock, including elephants, throughout N. Thailand and Laos. Included treating detusking victims, land mine victims, working injuries, abuse injuries, age related issues, disease and illness.
170 hours in AZA and AAPN service in Asian elephant SSP, including hot debates on whether sub categories of asian elephants should be interbred in captivity.
I don't think these animals should be circus performers, though I do believe they are capable of being such without any of the devices you mentioned. They are just as trainable as killer whales....which are not trained using aversives and force, and are routinely used for entertainment purposes in our country. Not once, in all of my time with elephants, domesticated, wild, Asian, African, did I see an animal contact require pain, aversives, force, duress, or cruelty.
Unless you have extensive experience with elephants in countries that have used them for work for centuries, how do you KNOW if they are comparable to horses? Have you ever discussed with a Karen mahout how you chose a bull for your cow? Did you know that some elephants are bred to be fast and agile traveling shockingly narrow mountain trails, while others are bred for strength? And even of those bred for strength, some are bred with the aim of hauling massive loads by dragging, others with strength for carrying loads, and still others for forward force and strength? Much like a rodeo bull's semen is used with a very different purpose thana dairy bull's. As the use of elephants for working purposes decrease, less are bred for that purpose, much like few people use specialized breeds of dogs for their bred purpose anymore.....but many are still around or are used for other purposes.
I only worked with three working elephants that were wild caught. One was due to its mother stepping on a land mine and not surviving. Another was tradiationally caught. the final one came from a mother that seemed to have lost her herd (possibly a released elephant) that was damaging villages. She was placed in a sanctuary, but her offspring was reared to work. Much like dogs or cats who are reared by humans, elephants then released will stay near human developments seeking what they need in terms of food, attention, bonding, shelter, and care.
I hear a lot of people who 'know' what is right or wrong about elephants but lack practical knowledge, or the willingness to consider that our 'elephants in zoos' view of the animals is not always accurate. I know that as well, since i was often responsible for creating zoo signage...and there was definitly intent to inspire visitors to see these animals as majestic creatures that we must protect in the wild.
Again, that doesn't mean that I believe using elephants for entertainment is right...or wrong. there are too many variables in each situation for me to be certain across the board, but I am 100% certain that trained/domesticated asian elephants do not need chains, electric shock, bull hooks, or abuse in general, to perform circus tricks, anymore than my dogs need those 'incentives' to run agility, herd sheep, or perform SAR work.