February 12, 2017
Elephant Cruelty in Thailand – Rich Man’s Dream and a Poor Man’s Nightmare.
I have for the last few years listened to people, (normally those from out-side of this country and predominately in the west), who have banged on about boycotting Elephant camps and festivals in Thailand, claiming they all promote cruelty.
From someone who lives here and understands a little of the Thai culture I say this statement is a bit like the countries Black Ivory Coffee, (the world’s most expensive coffee – produced by passing coffee beans through the digestive system of elephants)………………. ‘in the main its without merit and you could be shitting on those less fortunate’.
What the head line grabbers cling to is the old newspaper saying that, Bad News Sells. To explain the Psychology of why Bad News dominates the headlines; the BBC conducted its own research and found solid evidence, of a so called “negativity bias“, psychologists’ term for our collective hunger to hear, and remember bad news.
With this simple desire we all seem to yearn for ,dominating the media, it may be prudent to note the counter claims of those that have a genuine desire to save these mighty beasts. The internationally renowned, and government sponsored, Thai Elephant Conversation Centre on its web site states:
Disturbingly, some overseas animal rights groups have argued that tourists should not visit elephant camps, claiming it promotes cruelty. In fact, most Thai elephants are very well cared for, partly because most Thai people are intrinsically kind and humane but also because elephants are simply too valuable to abuse. (A beautiful calf or a healthy, young breeding female is worth as much as 700,000 baht or US$22,000.) Although the camp to be visited should be carefully selected, the kindest thing that ethical, elephant-loving tourists can do is to visit a camp and enjoy elephants. Without work in tourism, elephant owners will have no means to care for their animals.
The center is home to 80 elephants plus the Royal Elephant Stable which houses the Kings ten white elephants.
The Kings Cup Elephant Polo
The biggest charity event in South East Asia is held annually in Bangkok – The Kings Cop Elephant Polo The tournament has become one of the biggest charitable events in Southeast Asia, normally held prior the Kingdom’s National Elephant Day (annually on the 13th March).
The event has been staged for 15 years, with over US$1.3 million (BAHT 46 million) raised in the past, with the money being donated to projects that better the lives of Thailand’s wild and captured elephant population, these include: the world’s first Thai Elephant Assisted Autistic Therapy Project; positive reinforcement elephant training workshops; mahout community development initiatives, and wild elephant conservation.
For other Festival held in the Kingdom that feature elephants look to the bottom of this page
Centuries of Co-Existence
The people of the region have for centuries worked along-side these magnificent and intelligent creatures and where there were once, many hundreds of thousands of wild elephants, roaming freely across most parts of this once densely forested land, the 2,000 – 3,000 that now exist, due in no small part to the good will of the Thai people and the tourists that visit the Kingdom.
Boycotting all camps in the misguided belief, that they only exist to bring further suffering to these animals, is misguided. Nor will dwindling tourist numbers lead to what the west would like to see, animals left to themselves and in the wild where they belong.
If you take a few steps back and put yourself in the shoes of those that have for generations earned their livelihood from these beasts, the western point of view is a Rich Man’s Dream and a Poor Man’s Nightmare.
Funding Elephant Conservation through Tourism
Tourism has to pay its way, to allow elephants to continue to live free and for those that are unable to return to the wild, they need the tourist money…… so the Mahouts can continue to feed themselves, their families and their animals.
For those that have jumped on the band wagon and want to see the end of captivated animals then, why cast you eye on Thailand? Why not look closer to home and your own countries indigenous farming techniques. Would you lay the same ban on farms that use horses? Would you stop the breeding of cattle…… knowing a ban would take away the livelihood of farmers and more especially those that have worked the land for generations?
I don’t think so………….or at least we can hope those with common sense, would not allow you to do so.
Cruelty to animals happens in many forms and throughout the world, stamping it out is a noble ideal, but…… and here comes the but…… not with sweeping actions, that effect decent people who are only trying to feed themselves and their families.
For more how Thai’s Employ elephants in their Own Festivals across the Kingdom see our posts
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