Disturbing footage has emerged of the inhumane treatment elephants in Thailand endure at the hands of trainers to make them ‘perform’ for tourists and break their spirits.
The never-before-seen videos have been shared by World Animal Protection to show the cruel training process known as ‘the crush’ used to make elephants submissive enough to bathe, dance on command and take tourists on rides.
The video showed common practices such as the use of a bull-hook, which is a metal tool used to jab sensitive areas, as well as the use of chains to restrain them, and frequent exposure to stressful situations.
Eight young elephants were seen being forcibly taken from their mothers, tied to wooden structures while beaten repeatedly, and walking tied up – sometimes along busy highways.
In heartbreaking footage, three emaciated elephants were forced to dance on their back legs in front of a crowd of tourists
A young elephant sways in pain after its feet and neck were shackled to poles by cruel trainers
The elephants experience both physical and psychological trauma as they take violent blows, leaving them vulnerable and therefore terrified without the comfort of their mothers
Another video showed a trainer riding an elephant who was forced to walk with its two front legs shackled together
The young elephants experience both physical and psychological trauma as they take violent blows, leaving them vulnerable and terrified without the comfort of their mothers.
The distressing vision also shows young elephants being chained between trees while wailing in pain and eventually collapsing.
One elephant was seen being forced to stand up on his two hind legs, while his two front ankles are shackled together.
In an even more heartbreaking video, three emaciated elephants were forced to dance on their back legs in front of a crowd of tourists.
The footage also showed an elephant lifting up a tourist with his trunk while visibly in agony.
A scared baby elephant was chained to a wooden pole while being forced to spin a hoola hoop on his trunk.
Another video showed a trainer riding an elephant who was forced to walk with its two front legs shackled together.
The footage showed an elephant lifting up a tourist with his trunk while visibly in pain
The distressing vision also shows young elephants being chained between trees while crying out in pain and collapsing
A shackled elephant keeled over in pain after its two front legs were shackled together
Elephants are unable to move after being roped and chained to large fences, as they wail in pain
The global animal welfare organisation is calling for all Australian tourists to avoid captive elephant venues that offer direct interactions when tourism resumes post-coronavirus in popular travel destinations, like Thailand and Bali.
‘We are calling on the travel industry to revise their wildlife policies and stop offering exploitative experiences to their customers,’ Ben Pearson, Head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection, Australia said.
‘Elephant riding and other interactions, like shows and bathing, support acute animal cruelty.
‘We want to expose the true suffering elephants endure for a lifetime just so travellers can have their “once in a lifetime” holiday experience.
Mr Pearson said that once travel to Bali – one of the most popular overseas destinations for Australian travellers – opens up again, tourists should avoid such practices.
‘Tourism has come to a halt, but it will re-build, and this is the ideal opportunity to create a responsible and resilient future for wild animals,’ he said.
Tourists drive the demand for interactive elephant experiences, and in Thailand alone, there are approximately 2,800 captive elephants that have undergone this cruel training.
Trainers cruelly dressed elephants up in costumes to perform and dance on command for crowds of heartless tourists
A baby elephant tries to fit its head through a cage inside an inhumane enclosure
The video showed the common practices such as the use of a bull-hook (carried by the trainer), which is a metal tool used to jab sensitive areas
In addition to Thailand, a 2018 report by World Animal Protection documented numerous venues in Bali that offered elephant riding and interactions, all of which had poor welfare practices.
As a sustainable, long-term solution, World Animal Protection is advocating for a captive breeding ban on elephants to ensure future generations are spared this trauma.
Holidaymakers hold considerable power to turn their backs on unethical practices and can opt instead to see elephants in their natural habitat or support elephant-friendly venues.
Elephant-friendly venues work on an observation-only model, not allowing direct interaction between elephants and tourists, but still providing jobs and a valuable income to local people such as elephant keepers, also known as mahouts.
Holidaymakers hold considerable power to turn their backs on unethical practices and can opt instead to see elephants in their natural habitat or support elephant-friendly venues