Say no to Elephant Ride? You decide…

Written by @joehairie. Content arranged by @Lan
(Photos by team members)
Would you go for a ride or simply admire as what @Lan did?

I did read more than 10 articles about the cries from animal lovers, specifically the elephants ‘protectors‘. While quite a number of tourists actually enjoyed their moments on the elephant’s, some are quite rebellious towards such activity. Be it in Thailand, Vietnam or anywhere else (especially in Southeast Asia Region), we get to see some elephant riding activity. For few years already, there are voices heard from all over, suggesting a BIG NO to elephant ride. What say you? You decide..after reading this article.

The Scenario 

Can you detect sadness? Or were all parties in jovial mood?

The tourists love it. Those who have never seen an elephant will certainly be excited. The staffs manning such centers are making a living out of it. Those selling the souvenirs, the photographers and tourist guides get their shares as well. The owners are definitely making money. It somehow contributes towards the Tourism Industry’s growth. Simply put, those working in this industry are able to put the bread on the dining table, feeding their family. It’s a way of living and it’s been that for quite some time.

Imagine this, you worked hard for your holiday. You saved some money and finally you’re able to fly to your destination. You bought some tour packages and included in that itinerary, the Elephant Ride! Something that you have never done before. Your money went to the group of people who manage the center, the place where you ride your cute gigantic elephant. Was that a sin? Is it wrong to pay using your own money to be on that ride?

After that exciting ride, you want to see some elephants doing some performances, kicking the football or forming a synchronized move, marching, standing on two feet or whatsoever. You and other visitors cheerfully clapping hands, obviously because you all in jovial mood seeing such cute animal, performing. Did I mention that the elephants seemed to ‘smile’ while they performed? Drop of elephant tears can be seen too! People say that is to eliminate the dust coming in to their eyes.

The Questions & Answers

What was in the elephant’s mind? Any guess?

Have you ever wonder or think for a while, how on earth did the trainers managed to persuade the elephants to do all the tricks in the performances? How do they train the elephants to oblige to orders, ferrying human beings (tourists) from a station to a station, not hurting them? Of all articles, there are 2 good writings, one from Mathew Karsten (The Expert Vagabond) and the other one, Christina M Russo. Here are the links:

Why you shouldn’t ride Elephants in Thailand by Mathew Karsten

If you love Elephants, Don’t Ever Ride Them, Here’s Why by Christina M Russo

I suggest you read both articles and come back here to decide for yourself whether such ride is good for you. The writers of both articles clearly discussed the current issues, raising some important questions and prepared good answers to the mega question: why you should not opt for elephant ride….

The Argument

Smile with a ‘deep pain’…

While both articles presented their facts, the readers of both sites had mixed reviews and opinions. Some agreed with Mathew Karsten & Christina M Russo, while some disagreed. A reader even compared the killing and eating Chickens with the elephant ride. This particular reader was trying to suggest that there is nothing wrong riding the elephants as if the issue was about animal cruelty, then why other human beings killed and ate other animals but not being openly criticized? A reader replied, both scenarios are not to be compared as both are in different contexts.

A reader of Christina’s article suggested that elephant ride is abusing the animal and should be stop right away. A reader replied that such move is more than welcome but be prepared to have back-ups, economically, for those working in this Industry. We seconded the latter as it is not actually easy to provide jobs to the mass that making a living out of the elephant tourism. While some maybe ably to adapt working in conservation center, some may not succeeding in getting jobs.

Elephants and the community around that adorable species were in places around Southeast Asia for quite some time already (and they still are), even before someone documented the whole thing, historically. In the olden days, the people used elephants to carry heavy loads. Since carrying logs are now ‘manage’ by the modern type of transportation, elephants are left to do no work at all. The elephant owners then thought of using the elephants as a medium to entertain the curios and curious tourists.

The radical westerners might be having a problem in accepting the fact of using elephants as tourism product. It’s simple, some are so comfortable with the modern way of living that they fail to see the connection between the past and present. Some accused the Governments are not being sensitive enough to eradicate such activity (elephant ride). Simply put, the critics (elephant lovers) forgot to weigh-in the economy factor, the sole source of income for most of the community.

On the other hand, those making a living out of the elephant ride activity also failed to understand why such group exists, championing the elephant rights. The ‘protest’ to such activity comes from compassionate thoughts towards the elephants, something that were taught to them in a superlative and ‘quality’ education. Awareness, that is, something not being properly given to the Asian people, spread evenly across the region. The Asians are even divided in this issue, some lending their hands to the ‘elephants protectors’ and some have to ‘agree’ to such ride.

The perfect answer for questions raised in this argument is beyond our thoughts. We both do not have the right answers for such questions. When it comes to animal cruelty issue, we both tend to go along according to both our instinct and belief. When we witness an animal being slaughter for the Qurban season, we always know that such thing is legal in the eyes of of our faith. It’s not cruel but an obligation towards religion, something that might be mind boggling for the non believers of our faith.

We visited Thailand and Vietnam for instance, we saw some people happily riding the elephants. We saw some tourists opted for the activities in the elephant conservation center. We can’t really say no or yes to either activities. Both have advantages, disadvantages and reasons behind it. Did we see any cruelty? Yes, once. A baby elephant was forced to do something, beaten as it refused to obey. Did we stop the person? We can’t as it was beyond our capabilities, we chose to exited the show. Silent protest that made some tourists followed our action.

You decide..

I rather be on the soil…

Did you notice that not a single photo in this article show both of us on any elephant? We did not go for any ride, we will never ever do so. Yes, we went to such centers because the itinerary said so but we skipped the riding part. We chose to have our photos taken while we stood on the ground with all the happy riders and the sad but hard working elephants as the background. Are we suggesting you to do the same?

We are not suggesting anything except that we want you to read the 2 articles that I mentioned earlier, use all the common sense presented in this particular article and then decide for yourself whether such ride is suitable for your thoughts and soul. It will be up to you as individual, regardless of your origin or background, to finally say yes or no. It’s time for you to decide before your itinerary and your tour guide(s) takes you to such center, do decide before coming. Go for the ride if you feel like you have the right to do so or go to any conservation center to help the decide..


I failed to have the same excitement as them!
Who’s feeding who? I am not sure the final result of the feeding process..
‘Docked’ to a station, waiting for excited passengers..
Was the elephant happy, excited of forced? I am not sure…
…and the ride starts…

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