The Animal Abuse Behind Thailand's Tourism Industry
Sitting atop a nine foot tall, four ton beast while riding through a jungle sounds like a dream to many tourists. Elephant riding is one of Thailand’s biggest tourist attractions but there is a dark side that not many travelers are aware of.
Asian elephants are an endangered species and in Thailand the population is declining due to loss of habitat. The illegal capture and trade for use in the tourism industry is another major problem. The elephant riding industry thrives because foreign visitors pay good money to either ride or see the elephants do tricks.
However, elephants have to be tamed before they can be ridden and in Southeast Asia this taming process is brutal and takes place when the elephants are very young. These baby elephants are taken away from their families and put in a cage, too small for them to move. The elephants are then beaten into submission with clubs, stabbed with sharp bull hooks, starved, and deprived of sleep.
After training the stabbing is less frequent but still used as a tool to motivate the animals into doing what they are forced to do. These elephants are left with permanent physical and psychological damage, from scars to serious mental disorders. There are foundations like Save the Elephant Foundation that fights to save elephants and change Thailand’s attitude toward their treatment. If you want to get involved you can donate at http:http://savetheelephants.org/.