When trekking through the Nepalese Jungle, I was on the lookout for rhinos, crocodiles and the elusive tiger. I knew that it was not the season to spot wild elephants, as they had migrated to the other side of the mountain range to find food.
But, suddenly, while walking along the river in the full midday sun, a huge silhouette emerged in front of me through the shimmering heat. It took me a few seconds to realize: I was going to see my first elephant.
The animal moved very slowly, sometimes standing still for a few seconds before advancing its huge paw again, its trunk swinging from side to side.
I was awed. I stopped on the side of the tracks to watch it pass me by. This was the most beautiful animal I’d ever seen. It was so big, its skin so thick, its eyes so clever. It was magnificent, it inspired respect.
And then, I saw.
I saw the four people sitting on the platform on its back.
I saw the hook in the hand of the driver.
I saw the heavy chain around one of its paw.
I saw that it was a slave.
Stunned, I looked at the elephant walking away under the threat of the hook. I looked at the people on its back. What where they thinking? I felt a surge of uncharacteristic hate for them. As the animal disappeared in the dust, I felt my eyes burning. I blinked and realized that I was crying. I walked away slowly and sat down, rummaging in my bag to hide the tears from the guide.
There’s been so many posts about elephant riding lately, I had sworn not to write one as well. First of all, I thought the subject was already exposed enough. Second of all, I think it’s always very hypocritical when everybody gets riled up on that kind of thing while eating a burger or wearing leather shoes.
But, as I watched those people on the back of my first elephant, I couldn’t help but wonder. Didn’t they get the memo that riding elephants is bad form now? Or maybe they knew but didn’t care?
So I’m going to give it one last shot: DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS.
There’s no “but in this place they’re treated right”, or “but without a platform it’s okay”, or “but if it’s just me it’s not that heavy”. Elephants are not made to carry people, and any weight on their sensitive neck muscles is hurting them. Plus, if you can ride them in any way, it means that there was some training involved beforehand, and it was not chocolate-reward based. Seriously, I don’t even want to explain it here, it’s just awful torture.
If you want to just play with them, or bathe them, go to a place that only offers that particular activity. If there’s the possibility of riding them, you’re still participating to that monstrous industry, they’ve still been trained, and they’re still slaves.
So many things have been said and written on the subject already, it’s just time to wake up and stop it all together. And you have the power to do that, by refusing to ride elephants and by spreading the word.
Finally, if you’re already one of those convinced that elephants should not be treated that way, could you please take one or two minutes to push the idea further and think about this: if we agree that elephants should not be the slaves of humans and made to carry them, what about camels? What about horses? What about the hundreds of cows chained to their stables right now? What about the thousands of chickens in cages right now?
I don’t want to push it, just something to think about.
Please spread the word and let me know your thoughts on this one in the comment section below!