A campaign by International animal charity, World Animal Protection to end the cruel abuse of elephants in the tourist entertainment industry has secured the help of over 100 travel companies across the globe.
The travel companies, including global industry players like The Travel Corporation, TUI Benelux, Thomas Cook Northern Europe and Intrepid Travel Group have agreed to stop selling and promoting venues with elephant rides and shows, in a bid to end the cruel practice.
The cruelty endured by elephants and other wild animals at tourist attractions is gaining attention amongst the public, as well as the travel industry and was highlighted recently following the death of Gareth Crowe, a Scottish tourist killed by an elephant in Thailand, making global headlines.
In order to bring an end to this cruelty, World Animal Protection in India, has been engaging with tour operators in India to have them commit to not send their customers to venues here they can ride elephants and see shows where elephants are forced to perform.
114 global companies have now agreed with the NGO to no longer offer visits to venues with elephant rides and shows in any of their markets. Among these are popular brands from across the world, like Contiki, Kuoni Travel UK, Trafalgar and Jetair
Despite this large number, there are still a number of travel companies who are yet to commit to ending elephant rides and other cruel elephant entertainment, such as Trailfinders and The Ultimate Travel Company in the UK.
In order to make elephants submit to elephant rides and other human interactions they are taken from their mothers when babies and forced through a horrific training process known as ‘the crush’. This involves physical restraints, inflicting severe pain and withholding food and water. By the time tourist come to ride an elephant, it may look at peace, but this is because it’s spirit has been broken. The bullhook used permanently reminds the animal of human dominance.
The cruelty does not end after the crush. When not performing or used for rides most captive elephants are kept on chains, unable to socially interact with one another. This is hugely damaging to their physical and psychological wellbeing.
India Country Director at World Animal Protection, Gajender K Sharma, said: “In order to end these cruel rides and shows we must end the availability for tourists to visit these attractions. I’ve seen first-hand the horrendous conditions these elephants endure at the parks and it is a telling sign of change that this number of major industry players agree there is no place for this elephant cruelty within their travel packages.”
He added: “World Animal Protection wants to see this cruelty stop – but we also need to think about what happens to the animals already captive at these places, and what the future might hold for them. That’s why we are working hard to find tour operators who are prepared to go the extra mile and invest in transforming existing elephant camps into humane, safe sanctuaries – places where the animals are free to live and behave as naturally as possible, if they can’t be released back into the wild.”