PETA, tour operators to end elephant rides for tourists

Tourists riding elephants in Ayutthaya, Thailand. Pic: Shutterstock

SIX tour operators and wholesalers have reached an agreement with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to eliminate elephant rides as a tourist activity.

The latest effort by PETA was triggered by an incident in Thailand in February when a Scottish tourist was trampled to death by an elephant after being thrown off its back while riding it.

PETA used the unfortunate incident to build awareness about the harm inflicted on elephants while being trained as tourist attractions, which in turn can harm the tourists.

PETA’s corporate liaison Stephanie Shaw said, “People are not aware what these animals endure. All of these ritualised training sessions are designed to break these animals.”

She added, “In captivity, [elephants] don’t have a happy life. They’re hauling tourists on their back, beaten into submission. People who care about elephants should never ride one.”

Based on a post on PETA’s website, show elephants are often hit with bullhooks – heavy batons with a sharp steel hook that can tear their skins – which can lead to the animals to lash out when their breaking points are met.

Thailand’s tourist industry heavily depends on captive elephants for tourists to ride and trek on nature tours. It is estimated that over half of Thailand’s elephants are used for tourism.

Last month, in a separate case, the Kerala government had acted in favour of illegal owners of 289 captive elephants, which instigated PETA India to seek the withdrawal of its order allowing the state Chief Wildlife Warden to give ownership certificates for the animals.