PETA President Takes On the Elephant Slave Trade

Published by Michelle Kretzer.

Right now, elephants in India—some with tuberculosis, most with rotted, painful feet—are being beaten with bullhooks to make them fearful, compliant, and willing to let tourists ride on their backs. They’ve been beaten badly since they were removed from their mothers and put into chains. But right now, PETA and PETA India are battling to end the elephant slave trade.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk visited Amber Fort, Jaipur, where more than 100 elephants are held captive, beaten, and forced to give rides to tourists. Many have rotted feet, some are blind in one eye, some have human-contagious tuberculosis, and all are enduring a lifetime of servitude. Wearing shackles and chains and with her hands painted blood red in protest, Newkirk sat beside two volunteers in elephant masks and described to the media what she witnessed when, just after dawn one morning, she visited the nearby elephant training center where these gentle giants are kept:

“I heard the beatings before I saw them. There was the thwack of a heavy stick against elephant hide. Then, as I rounded the corner, surprising the men, I saw them with a raised thick stick.  They threw the sticks into the bushes, but I grabbed one and put it under my coat, taking it with me when I left. One of the two elephants was small, blind in one eye—which is common—and her sides were heaving, likely from severe stress,” she said. “These poor elephants need to be freed from slavery and sent to sanctuaries where they can stay with other elephants, walk about freely without chains, and without fear. In the quest for tourists, they have been made to suffer for years.”

The documentary Gods in Shackles as well as eyewitness videos have exposed elephants being beaten and forced to work in the tourism industry. After PETA and our international affiliates presented the evidence to travel agencies, websites, and book publishers, more than 50 of them have ended promotions of captive elephant attractions, including TripAdvisor, Thomas Cook, and Gate 1 Travel. And we won’t stop until the elephant slave trade is history.

During the trip, Newkirk also spoke up for much smaller—but also abused—animals: fish.

Commercial fishing is abuse of animals on a colossal scale, cruelly killing hundreds of billions of them worldwide every year—far more than any other industry. Newkirk asked people to pause and relate to who‘s on their plate.

Please help end cruelty to animals large and small. Urge travel companies to end their promotions of elephant rides and, for your next meal, give deliciously realistic vegan seafood a try.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind