Thailand is a dream vacation for many, with its incredible white sand beaches, intriguing culture, delectable cuisine and unique wildlife. When envisioning a trip to Thailand, an image of riding elephants along those beautiful beaches or jungles may come to mind. As magical as it seems, we want to shed light on this topic that will hopefully make you think twice about riding elephants as well.
The harsh truth is that this popular activity in Thailand, due to the booming tourism industry, is actually extremely harmful to the elephants and is putting them on the path to extinction. Elephants have already suffered at the hands of ivory poachers for decades; in the 1980s, 100,000 elephants were killed per year. This still poses a threat today despite the ivory ban in 1989. In addition, elephants also suffer from loss of habitat because of population growth and extension of agriculture. Elephant riding is a seemingly innocent activity that is detrimental to elephants.
In order to be tamed and ridden, baby elephants are first taken away from their families, and often illegally captured from neighboring countries as a result of high demand. After they are captured, the baby elephants are then kept in a tiny cage and subject to a brutal training process. Typical training involves beating with clubs and bull hooks with nails, as well as starvation and sleep deprivation.
Besides the training process, the elephants continue to be pierced with bull hooks in order to control them on a daily basis. They are in constant pain because their spines cannot support the weight of humans for hours on end, especially when there is a chair attached to their backs.
Elephants are remarkably intelligent creatures. They are capable of using tools and solving problems. They are even empathic, and studies suggest that they do have a well-developed consciousness.
There are plenty of alternative ways to enjoy Thailand without including an elephant adventure, now that you are aware of the torture involved in training the elephants to entertain you on your vacation. Let’s spread the word, and be more humane when it comes to the animal kingdom, even at the cost of forfeiting a tradition that has been tied into Thailand’s tourism for a long time.