Day 30: The day we found out first hand that elephant rides are pure animal cruelty!

Elephant rides in Thailand is something people have on their bucket lists. Here I want to share my own experience and why elephant rides are animal abuse.

This has got to be one of the worst, if not, THE worst experience I have had abroad. I’ve seen friends and travel bloggers being in their elements when they’re all happy on the back of an elephant. Along with the caption, “one ticked off the bucket list.” and the mandatory hashtags as well as the tick emojis.

Well, this was on my bucket list and I feel like such a hypocrite to have done this. No, not because it’s overrated but because it is just cruel. I should have realised it before but I guess I was just ignoring the reality of it.

We paid about 3000 Baht and it felt like we signed up for a full day of witnessing animal abuse. The day started off with us getting on these massive seats harnessed onto the elephants. As we got onto them, our elephant struggled a little. The little boy that took us was sat on the elephant’s head with a massive sharp looking hooked knife and started to hit the elephant with it to get it to move.

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Note the knife in the boy’s hand
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Completely unaware that the elephant would not be able to actually manage our weight

For a whole hour, it was just constant hitting of the elephant while it took us through this forest. The elephant behind us had some tourists on them who kept telling their rider to stop the elephant so they could take pictures every now and then. This meant the rider had to hit the elephant with the knife to make it stop. I just kept quiet and so did Ethan but we knew what each other were thinking. It felt incredibly awkward and wrong – just not what I envisioned it to be. Not like a joyful ride that many people depict all over the internet.

The evil little boy with his hooked knife
The evil little boy with his hooked knife
Look closer to what the rider was carrying
Look closer to what the rider was carrying. The knife is going into the elephant’s ear.

I started to notice blood marks and signs of flesh showing on the elephant’s head which shows that these animals get hit on a regular basis when they get trained. The elephant kept going slower and slower which made the rider angry so he hit the elephant more with the hook.

The following are minimal pictures of the blood marks on the elephants, I have not included the really bad ones but this should give you an idea of what these poor animals go through.

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Zoom in and examine these hook marks for yourself
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These are the hook marks on the elephant’s head after constantly being hit all day

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I couldn’t help but notice the tears in the elephant’s eyes as we got off it. We then got invited to watch the baby elephant show which I hoped would be less violent. It was just Ethan & myself who attended this little show.

baby elephant playing with a hula hoop
baby elephant playing with a hula hoop

To be honest, it was quite an impressive show of the elephant dancing, throwing a basketball into a hoop, playing a mouth organ. It was really cute to watch until it stopped and surprise, surprise – out came the hooked knife and it’s trainer hit it until it started dancing again. It was so painful to watch that I now feel so horrible that I never said anything. I should have just yelled at them and left. It was pure animal cruelty and us ill-natured humans were paying to see this.

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The only thing I enjoyed from this whole experience was bathing the elephants. We got to stroke it and bathe it which I personally found more respectful towards these gentle giants. It was quite funny since the other elephant in the water pooped into it and the poop started floating nearer towards me, yikes! That was the only time I actually laughed because of the odds of the animal pooping right next to me in the water.

me having a splash with the elephants
me having a splash with the elephant
Ethan bathing his elephant. Note the boy with the knife. There was just no need for it.
Ethan bathing his elephant. Note the boy with the knife. There was just no need for it.

Other than that bathing experience, I found this company or family that ran these day-outs should be behind bars. These elephants are making them their income and these people should be more respectful towards the elephants’ welfare.

Those aren't genuine smiles but this probably what you see when you see others enjoying this experience.
Those aren’t genuine smiles but this is probably what you see when you see others enjoying this experience.

Like me, I know there are many out there who wanted this to be ticked off their bucket list and choose not to listen when articles come up about elephant abuse. Open up your eyes. These animals are being tortured for your pleasure. You simply cannot argue with that. I will never do this again and will not think twice in telling other people, including friends, not to do it. I experienced this cruelty in front of my very eyes and now wish that more could be done to end this trade.

And no, I’m not some bimbotic animal activist attempting to make a point and I’m NOT sorry if this offends you. If it offends you then you are part of the problem.

When I get the time, I will be posting a more informative post about why you should not be going on elephant rides. Do your research and go to the parks where their priority is the welfare of the elephants rather than your entertainment.

Been on a similar experience? Disagree? air it all out in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Day 30: The day we found out first hand that elephant rides are pure animal cruelty!

  1. We went to Thailand in June and I had so many people tell me “Oh, you have to ride an elephant!!” Luckily I was able to do a little research before we left and read about the horrific abuse that occurs, so we were able to skip it all together. While it sounds like an awesome bucket list worthy event, it is heartbreaking to see the lives that they have to live. Day after day.
    Sorry you had to see it up close and personal. I think the part where you bathe them sounded fun. They do that up at the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai too! 🙂 Hope the rest of your trip was fun!!

    1. I would love to visit sanctuaries where these elephants are being looked after! I’m glad for you that you did your research & avoided this. It really is heartbreaking & I do still feel guilty. I guess I had to finally realise at some point I was just there for the sake of it & the whole “hype” around it. Never again! 🙂 Never been to Chiang Mai but it’s definitely in our plans for our next trip. Heard it’s a lot less busy there than other areas of Thailand!

  2. This makes me want to cry. Why are humans so selfish. These elephants are not our toys. I’m sorry you had to witness that it must have been awful because what could you do about it? Thank you for writing this and enlightening people that if they love elephants they should NOT ride them!!! Although the bathing looks like tons of fun!! minus the poop part lol

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