Los Angeles: Animal welfare organisations ‘Peace 4 Animals’ and ‘Wildlife SOS’ have joined forces to launch the campaign ‘Refuse to Ride Elephants: End The Abuse’ in India, which is aimed at raising awareness of the abuse and enslavement of the exploitative ‘elephant riding’ tourism industry.
While a pervasive problem throughout Asia, this campaign focuses on the elephant riding industry in Jaipur, the epicenter of the abusive trade. The organisations claim that more than 100 elephants are enslaved in Jaipur and exploited to carry tourists up to the Amer Fort.
Beginning this month, messages from ‘Refuse to Ride’ are being distributed across billboards, auto rickshaws, and print advertising in travel and airline magazines, as well as on digital media throughout Jaipur and the world.
“Riding elephants might appear to be innocent, but the industry is driven by money and greed, and can be very deceiving to tourists. What transpires before the elephant ride is animal cruelty and torture at its worst. Once stolen as babies from their families in the wild, they are beaten until they can’t take it any more in order to break their spirit and force them into a life of enslavement to line people’s pockets,” said Katie Cleary, Founder of Peace 4 Animals and World Animal News.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about the horrors that elephants are subjected to so that people around the world can make an educated and compassionate decision to help end this abhorrent industry by refusing to ride elephants,” added Cleary.
The campaign says most tourists are unaware that the elephants exploited by tourism are put through a cruel practice called phajaan or ‘breaking of the spirit.’
The elephants, which now cower and obey commands to avoid further beatings, are forced into hard labour for up to 18 hours a day for 50 years or more until they finally collapse or die. The elephants are often starved and deprived of medical care for acute injuries, reports the campaign.
“We have found that most tourists would be horrified if they knew the mistreatment that these beautiful elephants endure just to provide them with a few hours of entertainment,” stated Nikki Sharp, Executive Director of Wildlife SOS.
“Our hope is that this message will resonate with animal lovers around the globe and that people who love elephants won’t ride them,” Sharp pleaded.
According to the two organisations, characteristics of rampant elephant abuse in Jaipur include:
- Tourists are often lured in and fooled by false claims that the elephants are well-treated.
- Elephants usually carry the load of three riders and a heavy saddle.
- Nearly one-third of Jaipur elephants are more than 50 years old.
- Nearly 20% of Jaipur elephants are blind, yet are still forced to walk on the busy roads.
- 100% of Jaipur elephants suffer from foot problems such as deformation, arthritis, and cracks.
- Most elephants have been illegally trafficked from the wild for elephant riding.
- Asian elephants are an endangered species and the elephant tourism industry is having a negative impact on protecting them in the wild.
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