Why You Should Never Ride an Elephant
Elephants are some of the world’s most awe-inspiring animals. They’re also among the most abused when forced to give the public rides for entertainment.
Whether they’re born in captivity or taken from their families in nature, elephants must be psychologically broken before humans can climb onto their backs. This is the story of the elephants doomed to this grim fate:
Families Torn Apart
Elephant mothers are highly protective of their young. In their natural habitat, babies stay with their mums for years – forming a relationship that’s even been described as one of the closest bonds on Earth. The babies used for rides and other attractions, though, are denied a chance at a happy life. Greedy captors – whose goal is to break elephants’ spirits for profit – kidnap these babies from their mums.
Sam Haddock (Courtesy of PETA)
Violent conditioning begins early on. After baby elephants are torn away from their families, “trainers” tie them down and beat and scare them with bullhooks – heavy weapons with a sharp steel hook on one end – or other torture devices to break their spirits. This makes them fearful and teaches them to obey humans in order to avoid pain.
Stressed and Afraid
Researchers have found that elephants who are subjected to this process often develop post-traumatic stress disorder. They can experience severe anxiety as a result of what they’ve been through, sometimes re-experiencing physical sensations of the abuse they endured.
Denied a Natural Life
In their natural homes, elephants live in matriarchal herds, forage for fresh vegetation, play, bathe in rivers, and travel many miles a day together. But in captivity, they have no control over their lives. They can’t choose to socialise with other elephants and are forced to spend long hours chained, carrying riders on their backs, or performing painful tricks – even on the hottest days.
Deprived of Proper Care
Elephants in captivity endure a serious lack of exercise and spend prolonged periods standing on hard surfaces, both of which are major contributors to serious foot problems and arthritis. They’re routinely denied nutritious food, adequate water, and necessary veterinary care, especially for their feet.
Most captive elephants die decades short of their natural life expectancies – like Sambo, an elephant forced to carry tourists in Cambodia who dropped dead after suffering a heart attack, or Dumbo, a baby elephant who died in Thailand after breaking his back legs.
Elephants Strike Back
The only way to force elephants to give rides, paint pictures, or perform other demeaning tricks is through violence and domination. Under these vile conditions, it’s no surprise when one strikes back. Mbanje, a captive elephant, charged and crushed his captor to death after being forced to give rides earlier in the day.
Riders Die, Too
Denied everything that gives their lives meaning, elephants sometimes reach their breaking point and rampage, injuring or even killing those around them. In February, two Italian tourists were thrown from an elephant’s back in Thailand. One was gored by the animal’s tusk, and the other sustained a broken leg.
Elephant camps throughout Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries are notorious for duping the public into believing that their activities benefit elephants – often by claiming to rescue the animals or offer them “sanctuary” – but the abusive “training” methods and deprivation that elephants face at these facilities are often the same as they’d endure at more explicitly entertainment-focused businesses.
Supply and Demand
© Moving Animals
Everyone who pays to ride an elephant or who books an excursion involving captive elephants is responsible for this merciless cycle of abuse. To make a real difference in the lives of these animals, we need to take action to stop their suffering.
What You Can Do for Elephants
Please, never ride an elephant or any other animal. When you book a trip abroad, ask your tour operator and hotel whether they promote such activities. If they do, explain why they should stop.
All animals are living, feeling beings who would never choose to entertain the public, and they suffer when forced to do so. Please urge the Indian minister of tourism to end this exploitation of elephants: