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What Do Vegans Do If They Want To See Elephants?

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The Elephant “Sanctuary” label does not always mean it’s ethical

Elephants
sanctuaries attract a huge number of tourists. We all love elephants. We all
have the fantasy of interacting with an elephant.  But we just don’t know the price elephants
have to pay to become domesticated and to give us those rides we dreamed about
as children.

PThe truth is that today most elephant species are endangered with less than 45,000 left around the world.

Elephant watching
Elephants in the Wild

Today
many of elephant sanctuaries are filled with animals who used to work for
humans, mostly logging and building, who were abused over many years in order
to perform their duties, who have always been captive since their infancy and
are no longer able to survive in the wild through their own recourses. Some
people may say that the sanctuaries are the elephants’ refuge and that they
enjoy contact with humans.

But
many of these “sanctuaries” today thrive on tourism and continue the exploit
those same creatures by having them perform for the tourists, but no one knows
what the elephants had to endure to be broken into being tame.

That’s
because elephants are not easily domesticated animals, like dogs or cats. You
have to “crush” them into submission before they can accept to be exploited. It
is a horrible process involving breaking their spirit through violence,
humiliation and deprivation of freedom and family.

Some
people believe we should not even go anywhere near any sanctuaries at all, as
all of them hold elephants captive one way or another. Some believe the most
ethical way is to go on safaris where you can see the elephants in the wild
from afar.

There are no standards that elephant sanctuaries have to adhere to, whenever you see the following offered, you may want to avoid the place.

What happens in non-ethical sanctuaries?

Elephant rides
Elephant rides, hurting the elephant back

  • Elephant rides

Unless you sit on an elephant’s neck, you will be hurting his back. The platforms made to carry several tourists are especially difficult for the elephant. They are likely to be prodded to be made to obey or given drugs to work longer hours. Some are made to work all day non-stop.

  • Elephants play tricks or games for spectators

From circus acts to playing basketball, to those cute feats of elephants painting a picture or playing music, the training done to have the animals obey included a lot of pain and sometimes torture.

Elephant doing circus acts
Circus Trained Elephant

  • You are invited to go wash the elephant at the river

It may be fun for you but the elephant you are washing and touching is there to give you a thrill while he just conditioned to obey orders. This perhaps is the most devious of all activities where you are fooled into thinking you are doing something nice for the elephant and made to feel good about it.

  • When not in “use” the elephants are chained to a tree or enclave

The elephants do not live in big open spaces with other elephants but are chained up whenever they don’t work, being essentially captive slaves.

Washing the elephant at the river.
Washing Elephants in the River

  • They will be breeding the elephants

Nothing wrong there in principle, except that the babies will be tamed and domesticated early on in order to perform the same tricks as their parents. If you see chained animals and babies beside them don’t go Aaaaw! The fate expecting those babies is nothing short of a nightmare.

So where to go to and see elephants?

Well, that’s just the point, you will want to go to those places where you can only see the animals, and sometimes only from afar in order to minimize the impact of human disturbance. And yes, the time when we could touch elephants is over.

  • Elephants are in camp but live with no chains within large grounds

They circulate freely, sometimes close to humans but interactions are not encouraged.

Elephants Crossing River

  • Look for the places that are dedicated to releasing the elephants

After taking care of them, treating them and allowing them to recoup, an ethical sanctuary’s goal will always be to release the animals whenever possible.

  • Look
    for elephant hospitals

The hospitals have no vested interest in domesticating the elephant but are usually dedicated to releasing them as soon as they get better

  • Look
    at elephants in the wild from afar

Some
ethical safaris can take up to see the herds out in nature, without disturbing
them. This is by far the best option, though some people say that the traffic
in and out of the elephant’s environment through paths that are often used creates
artificial divisions in the territories that are not without impact.

Traveling Around the World, the Vegan Way

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