People from all over the world travel to India in order to experience the country's unique and renowned wildlife. But the veil has been lifted on the physical and psychological abuse endured by elephants who are forced to give tourists rides, and it's tarnishing the country's reputation.
PETA India has revealed that trainers beat elephants with weapons and traumatise these gentle giants by subjecting them to a life of distressing work, violence, neglected injuries, malnourishment, dehydration, and routine chaining. In fact, one foreign tourist recently filed an official cruelty complaint after witnessing trainers assault an elephant for 10 minutes after the suffering animal tried to escape at Amber Fort near Jaipur, Rajasthan. Even though the majority of Indians are Hindus – who consider elephants sacred and worship Lord Ganesha – in the tourist industry, life for these animals consists of fear and agony. Even those whose open wounds cause them pain or whose vision is impaired aren't allowed to rest. They're forced to carry humans on their backs in the oppressive heat by handlers who threaten them with rods and ankuses (sticks with a sharp metal hook on one end).
Tourists don't go to India with the intention of harming wildlife, but elephant rides are inherently cruel. An inspection – which was authorised by the Animal Welfare Board of India and conducted by veterinarians and experts from PETA India, Animal Rahat, Wildlife SOS, and the Centre for Studies on Elephants at the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences–Mannuthy – revealed that emaciated elephants with painful foot problems were used for rides, housed on hard concrete floors, and sometimes chained with spiked hobbles. Mahouts (handlers) even pierced some animals' sensitive ears and drilled holes into their tusks, maiming them for life. The inspection also found that many had invalid ownership certificates, in apparent violation of animal-protection laws.
Even though The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, prohibits the capturing of elephants, these sacred animals are torn away from their families in the wild, enslaved, beaten into submission, and forced to carry tourists against their will. Elephants are highly social animals, and in the wild, they spend their entire lives with their families. They can walk up to 50 kilometres per day and spend their time foraging for food, working together to solve problems, and relying on the wisdom, judgement, and experience of their eldest relatives.
TAKE ACTION NOW
It's time to protect India's sacred wildlife and put an end to inhumane elephant rides. You can help by sending a message to the Indian Minister of Tourism.