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Ethics of Elephant Riding

Jolly_Penguin

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Everytime I go to Thailand I see new tourists hemming and hawing over the elephants and if they should go ride them. The answer is NO.

The best elephant experience is Kui Buri where you are almost sure to see wild elephants, if a little bit tamed due to them stealing (and trampling/destroying) farmer's crops. The farmers were at war with them until they realized they could sell tours. Now they drive tourists into the reserve to see the elephants and it makes them enough money to offset the crop losses.

After that, the best elephant experiences are the ethical retreats where you can meet, walk beside and wash "rescued" elephants and meet then up close. Some of these places are much better than others.

The worst are the ones where you can ride the elephants. It isn't good for them and they are abused to make them allow you to ride them. And the worst of the worst are the ones with elephants who do tricks like painting. Just don't go. Please. It takes years of extensive abuse to get an elephant to do that. It isn't fun training like with dogs. It is big metal hooks and whips. I have seen this.

If you must see the elephants, I strongly recommend seeing them in the wild. Kui Buri is the easiest place to do that. Kaeng Krachan and Khao Yai are also options if you have more time to search.

PS - Oops. I thought I was writing this in the travel forum. I don't object if somebody decides to move it and deletes this note.
 

steve_bank

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Elephants that allow you to walk along are tamed and conditioned. It would never happen in the wild.

I don't see much of an ethical difference between gawking at elephants set up for tourists and riding elephants. It is all for show and profit and a distraction for tourists. Here in Seattle elephants were removed from the zoo due to activists.

If you want a real wildlife experience go walkabout in the jumble or savannah naked.
 

WAB

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I'd imagine the main thing you want to avoid whilst riding an elephant is to avoid the temptation to try and steer him with his ears.
 

Jolly_Penguin

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What about horses? Or keeping a dog or cat as a pet?

Dogs and cats have been domesticated and raised in captivity for centuries. Elephants can be.... but not really with the space they naturally need, and the vast majority of them in these places are not born into it and raised as beloved pets. They are abused with big steel hooks and forced to obey. They are more intelligent than horses, but then I also don't support riding horses when horses don't wish it.

The ones is some of the "rescues" actually are rescued from more abusive situations, so I'm more lenient on those than the ones offering "rides" or even worse "elephant paintings" where elephants are "trained" to paint with their trunks through repetitive torture sessions.
 

Jolly_Penguin

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I have done this now and the place to go is Kui Buri national park in Thailand. They elephants there are wild, spilling over from Myanmar border where they are hunted. They seem to have learned that the Thais don't hunt them, and protect them from poachers. So is that less than wild? In Kui Buri they are left to live in peace and you can drive in pickup trucks or keeps a fair distance away and watch them through binoculars. I found it quite exciting and fascinating and I am glad I didn't do the elephant petting zoo attractions.
 

Jolly_Penguin

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A number of the "elephant sanctuaries" in the Chiang Mai area have recently been profiled and outed as less than humane to the elephants. Don't trust a Thai Zoo. See them in the wild or don't see them at all.
 

ronburgundy

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What about horses? Or keeping a dog or cat as a pet?

Dog fighting is a closer analogy to elephant riding, than is simply having a pet dog or cat. That's especially true for a pet from a rescue shelter. Caring for a rescue pet reduces rather than increases the suffering that the pet will experience.
 
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