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If you vacation in Thailand, you’ll find that riding elephants is an enormous tourist attraction, figuratively and literally. It sounds like a pretty fun experience when you think about it. Sadly, like with most animal attractions, the animals are not treated well. Their well-being is not a high priority. It’s profits put before life.
In Thailand, elephants are symbolic. They symbolize the king’s divine right to rule over the land. It also stands for good luck and some religious icons. Sadly, there is little respect for them.
“The people believe that to control the animal they have to do something to make the elephant feel fear and pain,” said Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, a well-known Chiang-Mai-based activist who runs Jumbo Express.
Matthew Karsten journeyed into an elephant nature park. Afterward, he explained that “Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush”. It involves ripping baby elephants away from their mothers and confining them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they’re unable to move.”
So it’s sad that people participate in this tourist activity at all. This is exactly why you shouldn’t ride elephants anywhere.