The first deadly sin committed while living unconciously – Elephant interactions

Danyas wedding 101

If you have any lack of clarity on this particular issue, here is your guiding principle – if you, as Joe Public, can interact directly with an elephant without barriers (that would be walk next to, touch, or ride) that elephant has been subdued and trained through hideous cruelty (lets add performing and working elephants to this list, including cute baby elephants massaging you on a beach in Thailand, or drawing pictures for you).

Talk to any elephant back safari operator in Africa, and they will tell you their facility is different

  • They love their elephants
  • They would never hurt their elephants – the training is done through positive re enforcement
  • The elephant handlers have a special bond with their elephants
  • They may even tell you that the elephants they use where born in captivity and therefore used to working with humans, as their mother is.

You are never going to get the truth out of these business owners because this is a lucrative business for them.

I happen to have had more than average exposure to this particular issue through Karen Trendler who has fought the good fight on behalf of trained elephants many times, and worked closely with a lucky few elephants for their release back into the wild.

Karen Trendler ask the question ‘What exactly does it take to make a large, highly intelligent and sensitive creature kneel down so a tourist can climb on its back?’

This excerpt was taken from an article by Karen Trendler, ‘In manuals and guidelines on the ‘art’ of elephant taming, techniques describe it as “dominance-based free contact” training. The only way free contact can be achieved is for the mahout to have total control over the elephant and demand absolute compliance. He does this through physical and psychological domination.

Dominance is achieved by negative reinforcement, punishment, force, pain, discipline and demanding that the elephant submit. Any momentary loss of control or focus by the mahout is potentially lethal.

Ropes and chains are used for prolonged restraint to instil compliance and ‘break’ the elephant. It may also be tied to the side of the boma for prolonged periods until it submits or has ‘learnt’. Chaining and restraining enables the handlers to enforce while the elephant is unable to move, reinforcing physical and psychological domination.

An elephant is taught to lie down on command by ropes tied to its legs, which are pulled, forcing it to lie down. This can be used a punishment and, eventually, as a way for tourists to have their photos taken patting it.

They are frequently forced to remain in a ‘sitting’ or kneeling position for long periods as a form of training, domination and punishment. This can result in serious and potentially fatal injuries to both limbs and internal organs.  Young elephants and calves are especially at risk because, being social animals, their need for social and tactile comfort gets them to bond more easily with the mahout.

The handler carries what is innocuously referred to as an elephant ‘guide’. It is more correctly known as a goad or bull hook, a metre-long spike with a curved hook on the side. The sharp tip is used for jabbing and prodding the elephant in sensitive areas and the hook is inserted under folds of skin for pulling or applying pressure. It can be reversed for beating as punishment. Elephants often have scarring, open wounds and bruises from this instrument. It has been banned in a number of countries.

Another instrument of persuasion is a prodder, which delivers a high voltage electric shock. The more wilful, stronger and more full of character the elephant is, the more it is subjected to domination and punishment. And if it snaps, it’s subjected to further and harsher punishment.

Many people will defend their elephant experiences with statements like: “I’ve ridden on elephants and they were happy elephants”, or  “I talked to the owner; he loves his elephants”. Nobody wants to believe they have paid towards an elephant being abused, beaten, restrained or dominated.

But these facts are not simply an attempt to sensationalise. They are the result of research into elephant-back tourism, testifying in cruelty cases, and fighting against cruelty as well as caring for, nursing and managing the rehabilitation of elephants which had been tamed, trained and broken’

To read the full article, go to

No human leaves an elephant experience untouched, elephants are quite the most magical species, and the experience factor is very seductive – however, stop, think and put in place some measure of self-control. If you pay for any one of these experiences, you are condemning that elephant, and many more to come, to a life of misery, pain and torment. With this in mind, your desire to interact with elephant becomes an entirely selfish pursuit at great cost to our majestic cousins.

If you are interested in learning more about this cruelty, please watch or read

Nine Little Elephants

Heartbreakingly achingly beautiful video on two rescue elephants

Training a baby elephant for the circus

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