Thailand's Dirty Secret and the Complexity of Elephant Tourism
When my best friend Taylor asked me to go on a trip to Thailand with her, the biggest thing on her mind was seeing an Elephant. This is a woman with such a heart for these noble creatures that upon first seeing them she actually began to weep.
As the symbol of Thailand, elephants draw thousands of tourists every year to the country, but the price to ride these animals is much steeper than just the baht it costs for an encounter.
Many elephants are the victims of abuse, and even from a young age, to ensure submission to humans. And whats more, the saddles used to ride these elephants can leave permanent scars and damage. The situation is complex however, and the answer does not mean seeing an elephant remains out of the question. But where we put our dollars must be vetted and researched for the ethicality of the institution. That stands as the responsibility of adventurers and tourists alike.
If seeing an elephant in Thailand interests you, seek out sanctuaries, read reviews, and educate yourself on where your money is going. I gauruntee you will fall in love with these animals, the last thing you will want is to know that you are contributing (albeit unknowingly) to their suffering.