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