POLL: Should the use of elephants for “entertainment” be banned?

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Thousands of elephants being used for entertainment across Asia are kept in cruel, abusive conditions fuelled by the growing tourism industry, World Animal Protection has found.

Three out of four elephants surveyed in south-east Asia’s popular tourist destinations are living in harsh conditions where they are being used for rides, with mostly steel or wooden saddles, and tied in chains less than three metres long.

The scale of suffering experienced by elephants is “severe”, according to the animal rights NGO which assessed almost 3,000 elephants living in 220 venues in , Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and , and India between mid 2014 and late 2016.

The majority of captive elephants are taken from the wild, where just 50,000 remain in Asia. Animal rights groups say elephants are made to submit to humans by going through a process known as “the crush” – where baby elephants are taken from their mothers and forced into a training process that, at its worst, can include being restrained in a pen and beaten for several weeks.

Some venues in south-east Asia keep elephants on short chains. Photograph: World Animal Protection

At least 77% of the captive elephants surveyed in the report, which was released on 6 July, are chained day and night when not being used for entertainment purposes and experienced very little social interaction with other elephants. The animals are fed poor diets, have no access to proper veterinary care and are often exposed to stressful environments with loud music and a large number of tourists.

Elephants used for entertainment in Thailand in 2016.

These conditions go against elephants’ most basic needs. Elephants are intelligent, socially developed animals, which form complex hierarchies within herds. But in captivity elephants are forced to unnaturally submit to humans; they have been found to live shorter lives, experience behavioural problems, are more likely to develop chronic diseases and are less likely to reproduce.

The captive population is now thought to make up one-quarter to one-third of the remaining elephants in the region.

Despite conservation efforts, Thailand has seen a 30% increase in elephant entertainment venues – from circus performances to riding or bathing with elephants. As many as 40% of tourists from the top 10 countries visiting Thailand said they had been on or were planning to do an elephant ride, which translates as a demand for around 12.8 million elephant rides in the country, according to the report.

This coincides with the growing number of foreign visitors to Thailand which reached 32.6 million last year – a rise of 9% from 2015.

Elephant tourism remains popular because it can be “a hidden form of cruelty”, said Chiara Vitali, a wildlife expert at World Animal Protection. The process of the crush “will happen before any tourist sees an elephant, so they might see an animal that’s quite chilled out – but it had that beaten into it when it was an infant”, she said.

The organisation believes the best place for captive elephants are genuine sanctuaries, where the animals can roam free, bond and have their herd structure – and where tourists can see the elephants in a respectful way.

“There is an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of wildlife tourist attractions worldwide,” said Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, global wildlife and veterinary advisor at World Animal Protection.

“Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants in genuine sanctuaries are beacons of hope that can encourage the urgently needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry.”

Another report released on 4 July found an obscure Chinese town to be at the centre of an ivory smuggling trade network, exposing weaknesses in China’s domestic ivory ban which came into place in March 2017.

The Environmental Investigation Agency spent three years investigating the town of Shuidong, and found it to be home to a network of ivory trafficking syndicates reaching east and west Africa, according to the EIA. The group’s influence extended to the hotspots of and .

Researchers say the smuggling group was still active as of late June 2017, describing Shuidong as the world’s largest hub for ivory trafficking.

“What EIA discovered in Shuidong … clearly shows transnational criminal networks are operating with near-total impunity,” said Mary Rice, EIA executive director. “It is vital that enforcement agencies in Africa and China put these criminals out of business immediately.”

This article was first published by The Guardian on 06 Jul 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether the use of elephants for “entertainment” should be banned? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should the use of elephants for "entertainment" be banned?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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44 thoughts to “POLL: Should the use of elephants for “entertainment” be banned?”

  1. Other species were not put on earth for human amusement, entertainment, trophies, sport, vanity, or experiments for products only we use. How arrogant can humans get to think they have this omnipotent power to decide which species live or die and where they will live or die.

  2. Please ban it. These magnificent animals do not belong in zoo’s or circuses, to be used as entertainment for the ‘mindless’ folk out there. It’s cruel and barbaric, and breaks my heart to see these elephants suffering. Let them loose in the wild, their natural habitat please.

  3. Absolutely yes! What honest pleasure is there in seeing these amazing sentient animals being forced into these ridiculous acts! It amazes me that in this day and age people still believe this to be acceptable! How slow change takes place!

  4. I question the mentality of those who voted ‘No’ and ‘Don’t Know’ and ask whether they actually read the post before voting? If they did, then what on earth have elephants ever done to them to make them vote for this continued torment and torture both physically and mentally?

    If that were them chained in this way, cruelly beaten as they are, unable to move and contained in the tiniest of spaces (in comparison to their and our size), would they not be screaming and lashing out for their ‘human rights’ right now?

    Human rights, animal rights. Should they not be similarly afforded?

    Imagine walking a while in the ‘shoes’ of the animal yourselves before condemning them to something you would not be comfortable with yourselves!

  5. Elephants should never be used for entertainment – it is wrong. Elephants are very intelligent and to think they are treated like they have no feelings – are chained up and used by greedy people to get money is sickening – Anyone who takes their child to a Circus where elephants (or any animal) is used are as evil as the circus owners. The use of animals for any money needs to be stopped – the countries who allow animal exploitation need to be sanctioned and their people educated on how wrong it is. We all need to speak up for animals – we are their only hope.

  6. Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.

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