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More Than 100 Travel Companies Say No to Cruel Elephant Rides

Written by Craig Shapiro | March 25, 2016

Good news for elephants: More than 100 travel agencies—including global operators like The Travel Corporation, Intrepid Travel, and TUI—have pledged not to include elephant rides and shows with elephants in their itineraries.

elephants for tourist rides in Thailand ©

Elephants don’t carry people on their backs or perform tricks willingly. They are hit with bullhooks—heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end that can gouge and tear their sensitive skin—until they no longer have the will to resist.

Bullhooks are just part of the lifetime of abuse that elephants who are forced to perform are doomed to endure. In the wild, young elephants stay with their families, but in the tourism trade, still-nursing babies often have their bodies and spirits systematically broken through a barbaric process called phajaan, in which they are forcibly separated from their mothers, immobilized, beaten, and gouged with nails—sometimes for days at a time.

These training sessions leave elephants injured and traumatized. Those who survive spend their lives in servitude and chains, deprived of the chance to roam and socialize, which are vital to their physical and psychological well-being.

Sometimes elephants reach their breaking point, and the consequences can be fatal. Recently in Thailand, a Scottish tourist was killed and his teenage daughter was injured when an elephant they were riding snapped after reportedly being struck several times with a bullhook. The elephant lashed out at the trainer with his trunk, and after the tourist fell off, stomped on him and gored him with his tusk.

The compassionate decision by more than 100 travel companies not to promote and sanction cruelty to elephants is one that anyone who cares about the welfare of these intelligent, empathetic, and sensitive animals can applaud.

What You Can Do

You can do your part by using only travel agencies that do not book elephant rides or shows with elephants (such as VegVoyages), never taking a ride on an elephant or attending a show in which elephants are forced to perform, and encouraging your family and friends to follow your example.