Since childhood, elephants have been among my favorite animals. They are social, intelligent, majestic, and most of all—mysterious. If you’re lucky enough to visit a sanctuary, you’ll also find that they’re quite mischievous. I had that experience in Thailand, with one elephant distracting me by touching my ear with her trunk, while another snatched the sugar cane from my hand. Although they didn’t share the spoils, I’m sure some kind of arrangement was in place.
One thing’s for certain: From the glint in their eyes, I could tell that they both thought it was hilarious!
While many people have already made the connection linking elephant abuse to circuses or zoos, many still remain misguided regarding elephant rides in exotic destinations. In countries such as Thailand and Nepal, “elephant safaris” are commonly marketed toward tourists who know little about the process involved.
While getting swept away in the beauty of a new culture is something that we all experience (and relish) while traveling abroad, we must not make excuses for cruelty. Chances are that when you see an animal doing something he or she wouldn’t do in nature, the methods used to get this result are nothing less than barbaric.
In order to “train” an elephant to give people rides, the process must begin early. The elephants are taken away from their mothers at around 2 years of age and are tied up nearby with chains. The babies are, of course, traumatized and cry out in pain with desperate attempts to reach their mothers. It can take them as long as a full week before giving up hope.
Training begins when the baby is shackled tightly to a pole, often for many hours at a time. Attempts at desensitizing them include making loud noises, having a crowd of people beat them with sticks, sitting on them, prodding them, and brushing their skin with flames, causing painful burns. Because they’re tied up by the neck, they’re unable to turn their heads to avoid the sparks that land in their eyes and highly sensitive ears.
You must remember that these elephants are forced to give rides, and to do this, the trainers pierce their delicate ears with hooks and yank on them to steer, without giving a second thought to the animal’s well-being.
For those people who have gone on elephant rides, bleeding and open wounds on the animals’ heads are a common sight, as trainers beat the elephants if they try to flee from frightening situations or try to avoid walking on tar that is too hot and burns their feet.
Nepal is home to Mount Everest, breathtaking mountain scenery, an exotic culture, and fantastic vegan foods! There’s no need to contribute to this macabre act of cruelty. So whether or not you’re going there in the near future—sign this pledge to end elephant rides in Nepal!
Posted by Robert Fry