Who benefits from a Human-Wild Animal contact?
As much as being able to be in close contact with wild animals is a an appealing human adventure, for the wild animals involved, that human whim, comes with a very cruel and high price.
Trekking elephants are put through a horrific “crush” training process, where they’re beaten repeatedly in an effort to make them submissive and easier to control. In addition to enduring horrific beatings, these intelligent and social animals are confined to a life in shackles and deprived of the ability to roam and socialize. When they become frustrated and “act out” as a result of this stressful environment, they’re beaten even more as punishment.
It is needles to say that if the situation were inverted, any human being would dread living through such experience.
Elephant trekking involves small groups of tourists riding elephants through rivers or difficult terrain as part of a sightseeing experience. It’s promoted as a fun and unique way for people to experience wildlife and nature, but many are unaware of the cruelty that lies behind these so-called adventures. The elephants used for these excursions are forced to endure hours of carrying heavy loads under the scorching sun, placing them in danger of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Some measures being taken.
In 2016, travel website TripAdvisor stopped selling tickets to tourism activities that involved the use of wild animals, including elephant rides, cub and tiger petting, and swimming with dolphins. The change came after countless petitions and protests that urged the site to stop promoting inhumane activities that are tied to animal cruelty.
Even social media sites are working to spread awareness about the abusive animal attraction industry. Instagram recently added a pop-up message when people click on hashtags that are associated with wild exotic animal selfies and rides, as well as sales. The message warns users that the content they’re searching for is “associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.” Users can still proceed to view the posts, or they can click on a “learn more” button that brings them to a website about animal exploitation. These efforts are a step in the right direction, but the biggest impact comes from choosing ethics over entertainment.
What happens behind the tourist scene?
Behind the staged photos and interactive experiences, animals are suffering just so humans can have a few moments of fun. Stolen from the wild at a young age or bred in captivity, the animals used for these exotic excursions and adventures are robbed of their freedom and subjected to a life of cruelty and neglect in the name of entertainment.
Elephant trekking, swimming with dolphins, and opportunities to take selfies with exotic animals are offered at resorts and even some wildlife parks, giving people the chance to get up close and personal with wild animals. People are willing to pay a lot for these opportunities that are promoted as part of the ultimate vacation experience, but it’s the animals who pay the ultimate price.
Vacations are a time to relax and let the worries of our day-to-day lives slip away, and the anticipation of visiting a warm, sunny beach or traveling abroad makes us count down the days in anticipation of our exotic escape. As we work to make our vacation the best it can be, we look for memorable and unique experiences, and for some people, that includes participation in controversial activities involving animals.
Animal excursions and experiences are only profitable if people continue to pay for them. And while people might find these activities fun and memorable, they do nothing but contribute to animal suffering.
Behaviors as shown on this video can give us an idea of the kind of distress, maltreating elephants may bring to them. Gregarious, emotional care giving behaviors are deeply rooted in elephants, limiting their expression is probably quite painful, and really, does trekking on elephant make such a huge difference to human experience?