Thailand is a popular destination for adventure lovers. Hundreds of thousands of Westerners visit the country each year, and one of the “must-try” activities is riding a majestic elephant. But tourists are now being urged to stop, thanks to the revelation of some truly heartbreaking photos.
A Twitter user posted several photos of elephants in Thailand being cruelly mistreated. Their keepers, called mahouts, keep them in line by hitting them with sharp metal hooks, often hard enough to draw blood. Their heads are covered in old wounds.
Around 3000 elephants are currently used for entertainment across Asia, and 77 percent are treated inhumanely, according to the World Animal Protection. Elephants are often ripped from their mothers prematurely, violently broken into submission, then subjected to a lifetime of abuse and isolation.
While Thai government agencies are working to end animal cruelty, officials also urge visitors to boycott businesses that treat their animals this way.
“We never support tourists riding the elephants,” a spokesperson for the Tourism Authority of Thailand told Yahoo! News. “Please don’t ride the elephants and don’t support this business.”
There are about 3500 wild elephants in Thailand and about 4500 domesticated elephants. The domesticated elephants are classified as “working animals,” just like livestock. Animal advocates are working to change this classification in order to offer more protections to elephants.
If tourists want to enjoy these beautiful animals, one option is to visit a wild elephant sanctuary. There, tourists can observe and pet the animals, but cannot ride them.