I love elephants. That’s why I’ll never ride one.

Elephants are my favorite animals. I’m obsessed. I have shirts with elephants, pants, posters, notebooks, you name it. Early in our dating chapter, my husband changed his background on his computer to an elephant just to make me smile- and he hasn’t changed it back yet. When I find another elephant lover it becomes a theme in our relationship (ask my cousin’s wife who got elephant wrapping paper from me for her shower). I even wrote this for elephants on World Elephant Day last year… I could go on but I just love them so much.

That’s why I’ll never ride them again. I can’t get behind throwing money at an industry that could treat their employees better, if you catch my drift.

Primarily in Asian countries elephants are used in the tourist industry. They give rides or “treks” to tourists who hand over a lot of money to do so. The people who own the elephants make a lot of money, but more often than not elephants don’t receive proper care and can sometimes even die of sickness or exhaustion.

According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals 2010 study “Wildlife on a Tightrope” conducted in Thailand, 53% of elephants in captivity did not live in environments that met their basic needs. 53%! And that’s just basic needs! This means that 53% of captive elephants did not receive adequate nutrition, rest, or care. They were also found to be forced to perform in stressful interactions, all for the entertainment of tourists. These animals can then develop neurological disorders. The saddest part is that animals in this situation are often viewed as objects that are easier to replace than they are to properly take care of or invest in their wellbeing.

Back stateside, elephants were once part of the circus. Recently they were all retired (hurray!) and now live in a sanctuary. These elephants finally have freedom to move and live when once they were bound by chains and encouraged by hooks. I also remember when elephants were available to ride at the town fair. To be fair I haven’t seen elephants at the fair in many years, which is good. I have a bad feeling those elephants were also worked too hard when they should have been free, and I can admit I’ve handed over money to elephant-related charities to alleviate my guilt over once contributing to this once upon a time. I think I’ve balanced out my karma, but to be honest, I don’t plan to stop speaking for their freedom.

So, instead of riding an elephant who probably doesn’t want you on its back anyway, why not visit a sanctuary while abroad? There you can view happy elephants in as close to captivity as they should come, and you can probably even volunteer some time to help them out!

For an elephant sanctuary a little closer to home, check out The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. 🙂 In the meantime, what animal is your favorite? Would you help it if you could? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, namasté!

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