Tragic Death of British Tourist Shows What’s Wrong With Elephant Rides

Posted by 12 months ago | Permalink | Comments (47)

The story of British man Gareth Crowe, who was trampled and gored to death by an elephant in Thailand this week, is a tragic and shocking reminder of why elephants should not be exploited in the tourism industry.

Elephants are not tourist attractions

Elephants are wild animals – they’re not meant to be ridden by humans. Despite the extreme “training” methods used to make them submit to humans’ wills, they can never be fully “tame”. And just as a human might, an elephant who has endured years of chaining, beatings and abuse can suddenly “snap” and turn on his or her captors. Such incidents are not unusual – around a dozen similar deaths are thought to have occurred in Thailand in the past 15 years.

Thousands of elephants are used in Thailand’s tourist trade. Some of them were captured from the wild, and others were born in training camps, where they are torn from their mothers when they’re only a few months old, bound with ropes and steel cables, and immobilised in wooden cages. They are often deprived of food and water and beaten with sticks for days on end in an attempt to break their spirit. Many do not survive this violent process.

Once they reach adulthood, the suffering continues. Asian elephants on trekking tours often go for extended periods of time without food or water and aren’t given breaks from the intense heat. When they’re not being forced to carry holidaymakers around, they are tied up and deprived of the opportunity to express their natural behaviour, such as bonding with other elephants or finding a mate.

Of course, the unsuspecting tourists who take part in these excursions often have no idea about the kind of cruelty they’re really supporting – or the danger they’re putting themselves in.

We’re calling on travel companies to stop promoting this cruel, unethical and irresponsible industry. STA Travel and other forward-thinking travel agents have already cut ties with elephant attractions, and others need to do the same.

If you see elephant treks advertised anywhere, please speak out – send a quick e-mail to the company, and let us know, too, by e-mailing [email protected].


  • Bade Naseam mir commented on February 2, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I have seen the neglect first hand. Abuse of wild animals in many ways could have led to this and it’s likely to continue unless laws in Thailand and similar countries are put in place or enforced.

    • wendy williams commented on February 7, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      animals are not our’s to use and abuse they are wild animals and should be free to live their lives as nature intended

      • sally commented on February 25, 2016 at 6:39 pm

        ie killing one another

    • PATRICIA ROCHARD commented on February 8, 2016 at 1:44 am


  • May Milton commented on February 2, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Now was the time to post video of what the young elephants endure to be trained for rides etc,,
    Take this time when people who don’t have a clue nor don’t really care about animals ,,while their interested is perked.
    Opertunity missed,as people would have opened and watched,once this is old news it will go back to non interest.

  • Angela summers commented on February 2, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Please stop this , I have seen it in Thailand and its awful they look so sad

  • Paula Lawes commented on February 2, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Do you or anyone know what happened to the elephant? is it ok?

    • Julie Price commented on February 7, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      I read that it had been beaten

  • Iwona commented on February 3, 2016 at 12:19 am

    depressing… all animals which have t do with “humans” live in misery.

  • Sarah commented on February 3, 2016 at 6:23 am

    In India they were all chained up it makes me sick!!

  • Luciaba commented on February 3, 2016 at 7:18 am

    I can’t bare to understand and witness so many wild animals around the world are exposed to become slaves of human being

  • Lizzie Fuller commented on February 3, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Surely we should be treating animals with more respect and kindness – I cannot believe this torture and cruelty continues . I only hope that people will realise how devastating their brutality is and come to their senses . Can we not give them an alternative way of training their elephants and of earning a living ?

  • Lizzie Fuller commented on February 3, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Please let me know what happened to the elephant ?

  • Anthia Hibbert commented on February 3, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    People in these countries can’t look after their own people never mind animals.As long as tourists keep riding the elephants,the Thai people will keep abusing the elephants.

  • Christine Thurner commented on February 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    This is really outragious! Elephants belong in the wild and nowhere else! It is the fault of the tourists, who misuse the elephants for their own amusement! I feel no pitty whatsoever with the tourists, because they torture the elephants!

  • Sybil sable commented on February 7, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    if this was more publisized people would shun the elephant rides,and boycott zoos.We hope.

  • Carolyn Cornelius commented on February 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Why do people have tobe told that these animals are being abused? Are people so ignorant that they think it is normal for an elephant to submit to being ridden and performing tricks? What animals are put through for human entertainment is mind blowing and dispicable.

  • Penelope Anne Tweeddale commented on February 7, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Anthony Hibbert is quite correct. We have to stop supporting elephant riding in Thailand and other countries, Yes, the people of Thailand are,probably,
    not well-off but surely they can find another way to make money. They could even have safaris (with not guns, of course) to view the elephants in the wild.

  • Anne Peronne commented on February 7, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Poor animals ! Harassed and forced to commit the worse to defend themselves ! Tourists and owners are responsible jointly

  • Mrs Jean virk commented on February 7, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Practices like this don’t help your country, your people, tourists and most of all the elephants. Stop it now.

  • Mrs Jean virk commented on February 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Practices like this don’t help your country, your people, tourists, and most of all the elephants. Stop it now.

  • Irene Jones commented on February 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    So cruel hope it stops soon.

  • linda white commented on February 7, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    A note to all tourists think twice before you put your overweight bodies and these animals they are not there to transport you nor are they there to entertain you. They are beautiful animals and as such should be respected. This is nothing but abuse again. I am sick and tired of the East ill treating their animals. What a cruel nation we are becoming. Think again all you torturers. Allow these animals freedom to live and be happy!!!!!!!!!!

  • penelope commented on February 7, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    l have actually received a postcard from Thailand of a male elephant about to make love to a female elephant, with a crowd of gawping tourists looking on, what kind of perverts want to watch this, as for the thais who put this spectacle on, they are beneath contemp, the female elephant then has to endure severa more males to ride her in a day and all the while she is in season, these people are guttersnipes

  • Christine commented on February 7, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I am going on holiday to Thailand in May and I will certainly not be riding an elephant! I am sick to the stomache of the cruelty lots of countries and around the world, on these poor defenceless animals. We all need to make a stand and a difference !

  • Carmel Gagne commented on February 7, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Makes me sick to my stomach hearing what goes on in Thailand to those poor elephants. People who pay for these treks should think about what the elephants go through. They are wild animals they can’t just submit to humans without being restrained and abused. Stop encouraging these businesses people.

  • Michelle commented on February 7, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Enough is enough. Animals need protecting, not exploiting!

  • Christine Thompson commented on February 7, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    All the while tourists ignore the awful treatment of these majestic creatures, just so they can ride their backs the business will continue. I couldn’t even visit such a country however beautiful, as any animal cruelty is just unacceptable in my mind. Who are we as humans to abuse any animal for our own benefit, sadly I can see no end to the plight of elephants in Thailand, or any other animal for that matter. My heart bleeds for them all.

    • z commented on February 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      i thouhght they were sacred in thialand this is so dissapointing

      • rocco frangione commented on July 27, 2016 at 1:58 pm

        nothing is sacred when it comes to money

  • paul cole commented on February 7, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    wild animals belong in the wild or sanctuaries no where else, most people are too ignorant, selfish, or cruel to treat a wild animal with the respect and care they require and deserve.

  • Lynne Parfitt commented on February 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Hi ,
    I have just returned from Thailand .. various resorts in Krabi. … khao Lak and Phuket .. There are Elephant trekking easily available and advertised at EVERY tourist information and hotel foyer .. the reviews for most of these places are not good anyway and if you did your homework as most tourists do these days you would avoid but the rock and a hard place exists because without the tourists the elephants will
    starve !
    Most peoples perceptions of captive animals has greatly changed and the option of seeing the Elephants at a rescue or ethical centre is much more rewarding but the price of half a day trekking at £30 pp to a half day at a conservation or rescue at £120 pp is why the trekking still exists !
    If only these trekking camps would realise that tourists would still pay for half a day for an ‘elephant experience ‘ no trekking just being able to walk with them , river bathe with them and feed them it would be a much better existence for the elephants and a more ethical encounter for tourists ! If only the trekking camps could be persuaded ! I really wanted to do this without the trekking but NO. camp would ! It had to be trekking which I refuse to do ! I did manage to feed an elephant at the roadside and watch a bathing from a distance .. I would have gladly paid to be a part of it !!
    Lynne Parfitt
    Sent from my iPhone

  • Gaye Sinclair commented on February 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Are you not setting up petitipns for signatures to protest against all these horrific cases of treatment/cruelty to animals? then to be presented to relevant Governments… does Care2 Petition site?


  • Margaret Ayton commented on February 7, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I agree, I have seen the elephants in Thailand made to do tricks as well as being ridden I have seen a young wild elephant tied tightly to a tree on its own, waiting to be trained it was very anxious. I could do nothing and was told it was dangerous to go towards it. I shall not go to Thailand again unless the stop the cruelty and imprisonment of such beautiful animals. I don’t like to see buffalo races either!

  • Czerny Auyang commented on February 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    It’s the tourists who need to be educated about the treatment and “training” of the elephants. Like all the other forms of animal abuse–shark fin, ivory, bear bile, fur coats, foie gras–if the demand declines, the abuse will end. Humans are callous and care only about their amusements and appetites.

  • Barry & Helen Hildebrand commented on February 8, 2016 at 9:22 am

    The government of Thailand is the only body that can bring this cruel industry to an end. How this can be done is another thing. These people seem to have no moral compass when it comes to the treatment of these intelligent, beautiful creatures. There needs to be massive people power to bring change. Social media can help enormously. Please, everyone, do this. Now.

  • christine Montgomery commented on February 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    These people are barbaric the way they treat elephants. Elephants should be free to roam not used for tourist attractions. I don’t blame that elephant for doing what he did it was the owners and the tourists fault entirely. I have no sympathy whatsoever for them. But I expect the poor elephant was blamed. Shame on these people.

  • Jacqueline Schmidt commented on February 8, 2016 at 10:05 pm
  • Nina commented on February 8, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    How is it fun to ride poor elephants, which lifetimes are held captive but for the enjoyment of humans?

  • Val Hall commented on February 24, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    It never ends,so many animals abused by human beings mainly for financial gain.
    I do not believe it will ever be eradicated but we must do all we can to help all animals who are abused tortured exploited or treated as a commodity for the greed of so many men and women.

  • Martyn commented on February 25, 2016 at 1:28 am

    I have a fervent hope that what goes around, comes around!
    The hope, (if there is justice), is that those who hurt and torture animals suffer the same pain and fear as those poor animals who have received their cruelty – be it in this life or (if believed), the next!

  • JIM commented on February 25, 2016 at 2:38 pm


  • Shona commented on March 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    I don’t think this article is fair. Yes, there are plenty of places that do not look after their animals, but I went to a centre in Thailand where they are treated beautifully. I was on a ride and one elephant decided he wanted to overtake and they let him, they didn’t chastise him. During mating season they also set the elephants free into the jungle and it is their choice to come back. Many of the elephants would have starved because of lack of resources and these centres provide a way to support these high numbers. These animals will die without the support of the tourist trade. We should be promoting the idea that people do their homework about the centres they plan to visit and only use the ones where the animals are treated well. I’m trying to find out the name of the place I visited that was recommended through friends in Thailand, so I can promote the positive side of the trade. If an animal is treated poorly then I’m ahead of you on wanting to beat the people involved, but please don’t tar them all with the same brush.

    • Barry & Helen Hildebrand commented on July 29, 2016 at 12:45 am

      Please, do some research on the net and you will find details on how they break the spirit of young elephants in order for them to comply and enable humans to ride them. They are just tortured, tied up with ropes, deprived of food, water, sleep and beaten with sticks that have sharp hooks attached to them. Visit any sites, WWF, PETA, HUMANE SOCIETY and they will show you footage that will make you cringe. Thankfully some travel agents have now deleted elephant rides off their itinerary after being made aware of what happens behind the scenes. Many of the elephants being riden have arthritis and various other health issues and are basically being used as rides until they drop. Please, see the light.

  • Annemie commented on May 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Can someone please tell me whether elephant rides in South Africa are as cruel as well?

    • rocco frangione commented on July 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      what planet are you living on ?? elephant rides are cruel no matter where they are

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