The elephant was the favorite animal and it’s one of my childhood dream to ride upon the back of one of these awesome creatures. Just imagine how incredible it would be to sit atop a massive 9 foot tall, 4 tons beast while lumbering your way through deep rivers and pristine jungle.
That was until I spent some more time looking into the dark side of this popular activity.
Every year, tourists flock to Thailand and snap pictures with cute baby elephants or take an elephant ride. We can even see elephants paint pictures or perform tricks like in a circus. However, none of them have any clue on what these elephants had to endure in order to provide them with such an experience.
In the wild, elephants—who are highly social and intelligent animals—spend their days playing, swimming, foraging, exploring, and communicating with other elephants in their herd. They travel as far as 50 kilometers per day and are active for up to 18 hours a day. But elephants in trekking camps, zoos, and shows are deprived of all that is natural and important to them.
Contrary to misleading and false claims made by those who exploit them, elephants used in the tourist trade are not domesticated and very few have been “rescued.” Elephants exploited by the tourism industry are captive wild animals who have been beaten into submission and controlled through domination and fear.
Whether stolen from the wild or born into captivity, elephants endure unimaginable abuse for the lucrative Thai tourism trade. Baby elephants have their minds, bodies, and spirits systematically “broken” through a barbaric process called phajaan. Still-nursing baby elephants are dragged from their mothers, kicking and screaming. They are immobilized, beaten mercilessly, and gouged with nails for days at a time. These ritualized “training” sessions leave the elephants badly injured and traumatized. Some don’t survive.
Once their spirits have been crushed, these elephants spend the rest of their lives in servitude and chains. They spend their days lugging loads of tourists on their backs, often in sweltering temperatures. They are routinely beaten with bullhooks—metal rods with a sharp hook on one end—and often denied adequate food and water. The elephants are often worked to the point of exhaustion, and many develop pressure sores and suffer from painful problems with their sensitive feet.
A short video showing the cruelty of Elephants “training” in Thailand.
It’s tourists’ money which drives this cruel activity. Never visit elephant camps or take elephant rides, and only visit accredited sanctuaries. Tell friends and family about the realities of the elephant tourism trade, and urge everyone you know to stay away from any “attractions” that might fuel the industry of trades, tortures, and imprisons elephants.
Please help raise awareness of the cruelty of exploitative elephant attractions by sharing this article with your family and friends.