Riding Elephants in Thailand is a popular tourist attraction. When you first think about it, it might sound like a very unique and fun experience, I know for me it did at least. Unfortunately, like many animal related attractions, proper treatment of animals is often not the top priority as the need for quickly trained animals becomes the means to gain profits necessary to function as a business.
In Thailand Elephants are often viewed as symbols of the king’s divine right to rule, of good luck and even religious icons. But what the treatment of these animals, in some cases, has become, does not suggest there is enough respect for the animals.
“The people believe that to control the animal they have to do something to make the elephant feel fear and pain,” said Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, a well-known Chiang-Mai-based activist who runs Jumbo Express.
As Matthew Karsten explains after his journey into an elephant nature park, “Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush”. It involves ripping baby elephants away from their mothers and confining them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they’re unable to move.”
It is unfortunate that most people who do participate in elephant tourism in Thailand are simply unaware of what truly happens. Like many other animal driven tourist attractions, seeing behind the scenes is often not pretty nor popular. Spreading awareness like this can allow us to make informed decisions on the matter. For those interested you can also look into how circus’ should not be supported due to how some treat animals.
The video below shows how elephants are treated in Thailand for both the tourism and logging industry.