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Thailand’s Ayutthaya—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is an archeological and historical wonder that attracts millions of tourists every year. PETA’s new video footage shows elephants being chained and forced to give rides to visitors at the cultural landmark, which causes these intelligent, sensitive animals severe physical and psychological suffering.
Elephants belong in their natural homes, not in captivity, where they’re prevented from engaging in the vital activities that make them healthy and happy, including foraging for food, taking dust baths, swimming, and—most importantly—socializing with their families and other elephants. Elephants mourn when they lose a loved one, and females stay with their families for life—but in Thailand, captive elephants like the ones at Ayutthaya are subjected to a ritual called phajaan, which translates to “breaking the love between” mother and baby.
The only way to force elephants to allow humans to ride them or endure other unwanted contact is to threaten them constantly with physical punishment, as seen in PETA’s video. Baby elephants are taken from their mothers, beaten, deprived of food and water, and bound with ropes. They endure weeks of physical torture, emotional abuse, and loneliness until their spirits break and they become fearful enough to obey their captors in order to avoid more pain.
Handlers at Ayutthaya menacingly wave weapons around elephants’ heads, keeping the animals incessantly anxious. The endless violence, trauma, and deprivation of a natural, free life causes them to sway back and forth in their pen—abnormal behavior that’s common among captive elephants.
Elephants have extraordinary memories, so imagine the pain and sorrow they experience when they’re separated from their families and forced into servitude. You can help these animals by refusing to ride them or visit places where they’re forced to perform.
Please urge the Tourism Authority of Thailand to ban elephant rides at Thailand’s tourist sites.