People from all over the world travel to India to experience its 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 with a life of exhausting 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 the Amber Fort near Jaipur, Rajasthan. Even though the majority of Indians are Hindus – who deem elephants sacred and worship the elephant-headed god Ganesha – in the tourist industry, life for these animals consists of fear and agony. Those whose open wounds cause them pain or whose vision is impaired aren't even allowed to rest. They're forced to carry humans on their backs in the oppressive heat by men who threaten them with rods and bullhooks (sticks with a sharp metal hook at the end).
Tourists don't go to India with the intention of harming wildlife, but elephant rides are inherently cruel. An inspection 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 and 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 invalid ownership certificates, in apparent violation of animal-protection laws.
Even though Indian legislation prohibits taking elephants from their native habitat, many are torn away from their families in nature, beaten into submission, and made to carry tourists against their will. Elephants are highly social animals who spend their entire lives with their families in the wild. They walk up to 30 miles a day to forage for food, work together to solve problems, and rely on the wisdom, judgement, and experience of their eldest relatives.
It's time to protect India's wildlife and put an end to inhumane elephant rides. You can help by sending a message to the Indian Minister of Tourism.