Would you want to carry someone around on your back all day? How about seven days a week, 365 days a year—even during sweltering heat? That’s the life of many Asian elephants in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Tourists from all over the world wait in line to sit on the backs of these highly intelligent animals while trainers stand by with bullhooks and sticks, a painful reminder to the elephants of the punishment that awaits if they step out of line or refuse to keep marching. Most tourists are unaware of the suffering that they support by paying for these rides.
Elephants in animal parks, elephant camps, zoos, and shows are forced to endure horrible conditions and appalling torture. They are terrorized with bullhooks—rods that resemble fireplace pokers—and are beaten into submission and often shocked with electric prods. In addition to behind-the-scenes beatings, animals are often forced to work to the point of exhaustion, are denied adequate food and water, and suffer from chronic foot problems and pressure sores.
In the wild, elephants’ lives are filled with playing, swimming, mud-bathing, exploring, and socializing and communicating with other elephants, but elephants who are forced to give rides are torn away from their families. They never experience their natural herd life and are deprived of all that is natural and enjoyable to them.
Elephants are highly intelligent and curious animals who deserve to be free to pursue their own interests, not enslaved for life so tourists can have a few minutes of entertainment. You can help by refusing to patronize elephant rides or shows. You can also write letters to the governments of countries like Thailand where the abuse of elephants is rampant.
Posted by Edwina Baier