Can Elephant Tourism be Ethical?

Elephant tourism is gaining great popularity in Thailand and for many tourists the opportunity to ride an elephant through the jungle amongst other activities is high on their list of things to do when visiting South East Asia. Many people, however, are not aware of the cruelty and abuse these elephants suffer in order to make elephant tourism possible.

Baby elephants whether born in the wild or in captivity a technique called the phajaan, meaning ‘crushing’ is used to break the mind, body and spirit of the elephant. They are purposefully traumatised by separating them from their mothers before being tied down or squeezed into a small space, starved, dehydrated, and beaten repeatedly. In knowing this methodology tourists can make up their own mind, whether they think elephant tourism is ethical or whether they world prefer to support projects which work with rescued elephants and local communities.