Riding elephants in Thailand is still a huge money maker in the tourism industry. It’s a dream of many tourists and travelers, to ride these amazing animals. However, there is a dark side to this industry that people fail to realize, whether out of ignorance or just because they don’t care.
The Dark Side
Elephants are captured and taken away from their mothers when they’re very young and then they’re put through a process called “Phajaan” (the crush). This is a process designed to break the spirit of the elephant.
So, the baby elephants are taken and put in a small cage where they can’t move. They’re then beaten with clubs and repeatedly stabbed with hooks and are starved for days on end.
Even once the elephants have been tamed, the hooks are still used to control behavior. While they may not stab the elephant at this stage, the threat of being pierced is enough.
Also, don’t trust places that say their elephants are treated fairly. While this may be true now, the taming process will most likely have been the same.
Elephants won’t let humans ride on them so they “have to be” tortured in order to tame them. The reason why they won’t let you is actually because riding on an elephant can actually cause long-term damage to its spine.
If all that is not enough, how about the fact that these Asian elephants are endangered. Their population continues to decrease. It’s estimated that there are only about 2000 of these things left in Thailand, with about half of them being in captivity!
Considering all of this, is it really worth it just so that you can sit on top of one of these creatures?
The Bright Side
On the bright side, you can still interact with elephants while visiting Thailand! The only difference is it’s in a better environment where they’re treated well and cared for.
Watch this video which sheds some light on the issue and talks about a sanctuary which aims to help and rescue mistreated elephants.
Like they said in the video, the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) runs a very successful volunteer program. You can check it out here if you’re interested.
ENP aims to increase awareness and encourage elephant tourism that doesn’t involve torture. If you visit this sanctuary, you won’t find elephants performing tricks and you certainly won’t get the chance to ride them. Instead you’ll get the chance to just hang out with them and help care for them.
Pretty much the only reason why elephants are still captured and treated this way is because of us foreigners and tourists. We are the ones that are so keen to ride them and we pay good money to ride them and go see them perform.
So, take this on board and spread the word about this problem, and hopefully we can end this mistreatment and torture!
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