Elephants are part of a large number of animals being abused in the world for several reasons, but especially because of tourism. If you are traveling or even if you are staying in your country, you are likely to go to places where tourism activities are related to animals. Elephant rides, water parks with whales, dolphins, killer whales, zoos, circuses or other animal-related activities often hide the abuse. You are surely saying, "But I love animals so much, I want to go see them!" I understand you, I also love animals. That's why there are alternatives (even nicer!) like going to take care of elephants in a shelter. If you're still not convinced and you think that animal abuse must not be that worse, I invite you to go to see on YouTube animal abuse videos and see for yourself!
I am currently in Thailand, specifically in Chiang Mai, and I chose to go to an elephant hut rather than go for a ride on an elephant and I will explain why. The refuge where I went is called Elephant Nature Park. The people of this refuge save the elephants who have lived or are living from abuse and are most often connected to activities for tourists. There are several options you can choose when you go to this shelter. I chose to take a walk with the elephants (walking beside them of course), feed them and take a bath with them (mud and water). Without exaggerating, it was one of the most beautiful days of my life (well, I must admit that I love animals, even more elephants). I will now give you the reasons why you must choose the refuge.
The first reason why it is necessary to privilege a refuge: the employees have no tools or weapons to control and drive the elephants, only their hands. You probably wonder how these people manage to control these huge beasts? They use food as reinforcement. Instead of beating them, they feed them to make themselves heard. No maltreatment. This reason should already be enough to convince you to go to a shelter and drop the elephant strolls, but I have several others for those who are harder to convince.
Second reason: Elephants live in a large green space, much like their natural habitat. Unfortunately, elephants often can not return to their natural habitat because of the trauma they have endured. In this refuge, they are not prisoners in a cage nor tied, they are free. Which of you would be happier tied up rather than free? Nobody obviously and it's the same for elephants. Also, they have a large area of water and a large area of mud where they can go (it's so nice to see them bathe and throw mud). The people of this shelter even import plants that the elephants normally eat in nature to make them feel at home. That is what I call devotion to these animals.
Third reason: the employees do their best to keep the elephants as a family. When they save an elephant, they try to save their family too. If a family member is sick, the other elephants feel it and sometimes are even depressed (yes, it also exists in animals). So elephants need their families to live and encouraging activities such as elephant rides means you encourage the separation of these families.
Fourth reason: the people who work there prioritize elephants and not tourists. Unlike tourist activities where the thing that matters is the income that the animal makes, in this refuge, the animal advocates above all. For example, if someone wants to take a photo with an elephant and it goes away, they are not going to hit him so he can come back, it's up to the person who wants to take the picture to move. They will rather follow the mood of the elephant than impose one.
Fifth reason: the link between employees and elephants. Throughout the day, I could see how the employees interact with elephants. At no time in the day I could see one of them raise their hands on an elephant. All that I have observed is caresses, cuddles, love in the pure state. I swear that these employees love these elephants as much as you can love your dog, your cat or even your mother. They are sincerely involved in their job and really love what they do. Plus, they are really funny and tell jokes all day long. Our guide for the day, Sunshine, even left his job as a teacher to focus on educating tourists about the reality of elephants (that's proof that he likes what he does, right?). All of these People only want their well-being. That's what we all want, too, I think.
** By the way, if you ever go to this hideaway, I would definitely recommend Sunshine. He knows everything about elephants, he is funny, endearing and does his best to make the most beautiful day possible.
Sixth reason: Unlike walking, elephants are not hurt by tourists because they only take care of them by giving them a bath, rubbing them with mud or feeding them. Well, there are probably people who will tell me that elephants can not be hurt by walking because they are able to drag and lift weights much heavier than humans. Well, I tell you that these elephants are hurt by these strolls because the weight of the structure where the tourists are installed in addition to the weight of the tourists and the employee is too great a burden for the back of the elephants and these elephants do not only do one stroll a day, but far too much for the little food they have and the punishments they suffer.
Seventh reason: I learned during this day that the elephants fell emotions more than we do. So, imagine, how they should feel when they are separated from their families, injured by the work they have to perform and mistreated as well. In this shelter, I really felt that they were happy and what they felt had nothing to do with sadness. Impossible not to be convinced to prioritize the refuges to the walks with these seven excellent reasons.
In short, for all these reasons, I want tourists to make the right choice when it comes to choosing an activity with elephants, that is, opting for an activity where they are not ill-treated. Anyway, it's much better to spend quality time with elephants playing in the water and mud with them, rather than to climb on their back for a little 10 minutes without even seeing them. Is it not? Our pleasure as a tourist should never surpass the welfare of animals. So please do not encourage the abuse of these animals for your own personal enjoyment and uninformed people who are not aware that there is abuse in these kinds of tourist activities.
It is by informing those who are ignorant that we will be able to put an end to this scourge. I may be naive, but I hope that one day tourist activities will have nothing to do with the abuse of animals.