SAN ANDREAS, Calif. - The co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society and six celebrity supporters are asking Jimmy Fallon to stop featuring wild and exotic animals on The Tonight Show.
Their letter was prompted by an appearance last week of an Asian elephant named Roxie that smashed fruit on the stage and lifted Fallon with its trunk.
"Thirty-five years ago before I knew any of this, it would have been amusing," PAWS president and co-founder Ed Stewart said. "But the more you know about elephants, the less amusing that kind of thing is."
Eleven former circus and zoo elephants live at the 2,300 acre PAWS sanctuary.
Stewart said that while attention is naturally focused on Fallon having fun with the elephant, two trainers can be seen in the background discreetly holding bullhooks behind their backs.
He said the "show" hooks are a smaller version of regular training bullhooks that gain control of the elephants by causing pain in sensitive areas.
Stewart said elephants involved in show business are subjected to unnatural and inhumane conditions that shorten their lifespan.
"Elephants don't volunteer to be on The Tonight Show," he said. "And Jimmy Fallon is funny enough to entertain me without acting stupid with an elephant."
Stewart said he doesn't expect The Tonight Show to change overnight, but felt compelled to stand up for animals who've been a staple of the show since it was hosted by Johnny Carson.
The letter is dated June 25 and is signed by Stewart, Bob Barker, Kim Basinger, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Jorja Fox, Ross McCall and Lily Tomlin.
"Mr. Fallon, you represent a new generation of articulate, progressive nighttime talk show hosts who can make a real difference by abandoning the inhumane and outdated practice of featuring wild animals on their shows," the letter reads.
The Tonight Show did not immediately respond to the PAWS letter or an inquiry from News10.