Harrowing footage has emerged showing an elephant being stabbed with bamboo spears as a form of punishment for bad behaviour.
At least six men tied the gentle giant by its legs and tusks to a tree in Surin, North East Thailand.
Unable to control the agitated animal, the cruel owners used a brutal method of ‘breaking’ the bull to kill its spirit and make it less aggressive.
Disturbing video shows the distressed animal thrashing around in a bid to free itself as the group of screaming men stabbed and prodded it with vicious 15ft-long bamboo spears.
In the following days, it was put back to work in Buddhist religious festivals slavered in gaudy robes.
As the animal got more agitated over people prodding it with their weapons, a man jumped off its back to help the others try to control the mammal.
Surrounding onlookers videoed the traumatic experience as the elephant tried to charge to escape the group of people surrounding it.
At least nine people can be spotted watching the incident take place as some take pictures standing safely away by their silver truck.
Conservationist Jinwimon Mahasup, who follows wild elephants in sprawling national woodland across the country, said wild elephants do not behave like the animal seen in the video.
She said: ‘Domestic elephants are chained and imprisoned, which makes them go crazy. They become agitated and the only way the owners know how to respond is with more violence.
‘The people are attacking the elephant to try and control it.
‘With independent wild elephants, there is no such behaviour. Man is the destroyer, raising elephants for their own profit.
‘We do not like these people because they exploit elephants for their own benefit. Sadly, most of the people who raise elephants in captivity are those taking advantage of them.’
One of the most well-known elephant conservationists Saengduean Chailert, or Lek, runs a sanctuary in Chiang Mai in the north of the country.
She has recently banned visitors from bathing, feeding and touching the elephants – leading to the number of tourists visiting her Elephant Nature Park falling by half.
Tour operators told her that they could no longer send holidaymakers ‘because everyone ‘wants to touch and hug the elephants, they want to put their hands on them’.
Saengduean, who is also known as Thailand’s ‘Elephant Whisperer’, is now encouraging other venues at popular tourist destinations such as Phuket and Koh Samui to ban people from contact with the creatures.
Animal rights groups such as World Animal Protection (WAP) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have supported the changes.
PETA has also called for laws banning the use of elephants in the tourism and entertainment industry.
Vice President Jason Baker said: ‘Sadly, history has shown us that we can’t rely on governments to protect animals, especially in countries like Thailand, where animal welfare laws are weak.’
BBC investigators also found that state intervention in animal welfare was inadequate.
Katheryn Wise, Wildlife Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection said: ‘This footage is highly distressing to watch, but we cannot look away.
‘The chances are that any elephant deemed ‘safe’ to be around humans has been forced to endure a cruel process like this.
‘Elephants are thinking, feeling creatures that spend their whole lives with mothers and family groups in the wild. This barbaric trade drags baby elephants screaming from their mothers and beats them into submission before sentencing them to a life of misery.
‘A fact well hidden from tourists. Who are instead led to believe that they are helping these animals and the conservation of the species, while in reality they are fuelling the industry by creating demand for activities built on incredible suffering.
‘We’re calling on the tourism industry to revise their wildlife policies and end the sale of exploitative experiences.’
Thailand has an estimated 2,000 Asian elephants living in the wild – down from 100,000 a century ago – and around 3,000 in captivity owned privately.
Many are used for Buddhist ceremonies and festivals, with many of the country’s civilians defending their culture and history of using elephants, including in tribal wars from the 9th century until World War 2.
This article by Chloe Louise was first published by The Daily Mail on 30 January 2023. Lead Image: The elephant tried frantically to escape as more people gathered to watch the animal suffer in captivity.
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