Elephant-related tourism in Thailand is a £415 million a year industry
And tourists from Britain inadvertently play a part in his torment. There are more than 200 unethical elephant spots in Thailand where visitors demand selfies with these majestic animals or ride on their backs through the jungle.
Elephant-related tourism in Thailand is a £415m a year industry and relies on stealing calves from their mothers and breaking their spirits with sickening cruelty before turning them into photo opportunities.
Despite the savage treatment, a UK government proposal to ban the promotion of overseas holiday spots where elephants are abused was halted earlier this year.
The process in which calves are taken to secret training camps, beaten, starved, and tortured is called “pajan.”
The first step is to force the beasts into a kraal or “crushing cage”. This is a wooden structure designed to keep the elephant in a cage so tight that it cannot move.
The trainers then starve the animal and keep it awake for days, before beating it with wooden weapons designed to inflict as much pain as possible.
The animals endure this brutality for at least six months, all day, every day until their spirit is so broken that they completely submit to the trainers.
About half die in the process, while the rest give rides for tourists, perform tricks at shows, or dress garishly for parades.
The Express went to Thailand on a mission to discover the suffering of elephants.
Animals endure brutality for at least six months, all day, every day months, all day, every day
One of the last stops on the trip was the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Chon Buri, where they are cruelly made to dance underwater while bobbing their heads above and below the surface.
On the other side of the glass, hundreds of men, women and children sit in the crowd cheering on the stunts and filming them on their phones.
Life for these elephants involves a lot of pain, fear, dehydration, malnutrition, abuse, suffering and humiliation.
Many are near death and hit with a bullhook. With its metal tip and curved blade, this weapon wouldn’t look out of place on a medieval battlefield.
Signs in Khao Kheow said their elephants were chained up as a safety measure for the public “because they can be very aggressive.”
They even claimed that they are doing it because “animal welfare” is the “first priority” of the zoo.
The reality is very bleak, with numerous elephants swaying from side to side, an indicator of stress and ill health, and chained with hardly any room to move.
The Government has urged British tourists to support “higher welfare” attractions involving animals abroad.
But at least 1,200 UK companies are promoting 277 venues and profiting from elephant torture.
At least 1,200 UK companies promote 277 venues and profit from elephant torture.
Campaigners from Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) are demanding that UK companies be banned from marketing holiday resorts that exploit elephants.
The Animals Abroad Bill was intended to ensure that UK consumers did not support cruel animal practices abroad.
However, the bill was scrapped from this year’s Queen’s Speech, despite former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to tackle animal cruelty. The private members bill, tabled by Conservative MP Angela Richardson, is due for a second reading in February.
The bill, first introduced in June, would also ban exports of live animals and imports of hunting trophies, furs and foie gras.
STAE has spent the last three months campaigning for the Rishi Sunak government to support these changes to the law and has received overwhelming support from the public.
Duncan McNair, CEO of the organization, said: “Support for the ban on such ads promised by the Johnson administration crosses all boundaries of religion, politics and the public, the latter now at 95 per cent.
“Will the Sunak government demonstrate the sincerity of its declared support by endorsing the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Overseas) Bill, which is due for a Commons second reading on February 3?”
Many elephants are on the verge of death and are hit with a bullhook
Elisa Allen, PETA’s vice president of programs, said: “A huge thank you to the Daily Express for telling travel companies there is no excuse for elephant abuse! Elephants perform awkward, confusing, and even painful tricks and walks only because of training that involves fear and severe punishment.
“They endure lives of total domination and exploitation, often denied food and water for many hours and kept in chains, unable to take more than one step in any direction, when not forced to do something for human benefit.
“Our government must introduce the long-promised Overseas Animals Act, which would ban tour operators from advertising cruel animal attractions and experiences, including elephant rides.
“In the meantime, PETA urges tourists to vote with their wallets and leave wild animal attractions off their itineraries.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and our Animal Welfare Action Plan demonstrates our commitment to promoting high standards of animal welfare, both at home and abroad. .
“We know that animals that are part of tourist attractions are often subjected to cruel and brutal training practices, and we encourage access to research so that tourists can make informed decisions that benefit wildlife.”
Katheryn Wise, Wildlife Campaigns Manager at World Animal Protection, said: “Places that offer this kind of opportunity normalize this harmful trend that causes misery for thousands of animals around the world.
“Captive wild animals face a lifetime of suffering just to entertain tourists.
“If you can hug, ride, touch or take a photo with a wild animal, chances are it has suffered some form of cruelty.
“Wild animals are not ours to exploit. They belong to nature.”
Life for these elephants involves a lot of pain, fear, malnutrition, abuse and more.
Comment by Duncan McNair, CEO of Save The Asian Elephants
I founded Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) in 2015 after harrowing trips to India to investigate the horrors done to the now endangered Asian elephant trapped in modern tourism. The cruelty was worse than he feared.
Last month I traveled with the Daily Express to Thailand, home to three quarters of the world’s captive Asian elephants. Beautiful and bountiful, Thailand translates to “land of the free.” Not so for elephants.
Exploited in tourism for decades, they are taken from the wild as babies and their protective mothers are killed.
The youths are then isolated and starved in a “crushing cage”, yelled at as they are beaten with planks and iron bars, stabbed and ripped apart with knives and nails.
STAE has received reports of captive Asian elephant mothers giving birth after 22 months of gestation and immediately crushing their newborn to death to spare the baby the same tragic life of horrors they have experienced.
We entered the massive Nong Nooch resort in southeast Thailand with trepidation. Described as a cultural experience, in a large roundup, dozens of traumatized baby elephants were stabbed in the head with grappling hooks and behind the ears with secretly placed nails to make them dance, play soccer, basketball and throw darts. Some were so young that they tried to cling to their mothers.
Crowds of screaming children were urged to stuff wads of cash into the trunks of huge elephants as their tusks swung inches from their faces. Baby elephants are chained to fences between endless exhausting “performances.” They do it
to 10 a day, bruised, bloody and crying.
In Thailand’s Khao Kheow “sanctuary,” captive elephants were forced into a large glass tank to repeatedly swim underwater for a few vegetables in front of rows of gawking and laughing crowds. Baby elephants are stabbed in the head with spikes to force them to submerge.
While elephant tourism has skyrocketed in this region, global numbers have dwindled to just 40,000. More than 40 percent are in captivity, most enslaved, enduring daily violence as a reminder of their childhood torture to ensure submission to tourism.
Physically and psychologically broken, they survive only half of their natural lives. Yet Asian elephants are vital “forest mega-gardeners” nurturing the soil we all depend on, combating our carbon output.
Provoked elephants attack and kill: STAE has recorded thousands of cases.
STAE points to 1,200 companies selling 300 brutal and dangerous elephant venues in the UK. Support for the Johnson administration’s promised ban on such ads crosses all lines of faith and politics. Public support is now 95 percent.
Will the Sunak government show its declared support by endorsing the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill, which is due for its second common reading on February 3?