Apart from the fact that elephant rides are completely superfluous, here are the reasons why you should not support elephant rides.

Chained elephant at Haathi gaon

Chained elephant at Haathi gaon. Photo credit: HSI India

Elephant rides are extremely cruel

Captive elephants, when not giving people rides, are chained all their lives. They don’t have the basic freedom of movement. Almost all captive elephants were once forest dwellers, they are not used to walking on tar roads, especially when it gets too hot and they must climb uphill. This causes their feet and nails to crack, have open sores and burns and infected wounds, they are in acute pain and discomfort because of this. They were stolen from the forests as calves and to “tame” them and make them listen to humans, they are beaten and punished rigorously for years. The process of converting a wild elephant into a captive one is called breaking an elephant’s spirit. This “technique” is used across Asia to control elephants completely and target female elephants, as they are easier to dominate. This is just a beginning to a life that is brim-full of torture, pain and an untimely demise. They lead a life of a prisoner.

Elephant rides are surrounded by illegal activities

Asiatic elephants in the wild.

Asiatic elephants in the wild. Photo credit: HSI India

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 grants the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) the highest protection. It is absolutely illegal to capture, hunt and trade elephants in India. All the captive elephants in India must have proper ownership certificates and a trail of other important documentation, without which the elephants can’t be owned by anyone. Many of these elephants are illegally caught in the wild and a fake paper trail is created by the perpetrators. Elephant rides also fuel illegal wildlife trade as when these illegally owned elephants die, their tusks are sold, which is against the law. This vicious cycle of elephants being stolen from the wild to meet the demands of tourists wanting to ride the elephants is also enabling and helping poachers in this country not only smuggle elephants but also other animals and animal articles.

Elephant rides go against the elephant’s natural behaviour

Elephant after a ride at Amer fort.

Elephant after a ride at Amer fort. Photo credit: HSI India

Elephants in captivity are made to perform tasks unnatural to them in places where it is not an elephant’s natural habitat. Their bodies are not meant to be ridden and significantly reduces their well being and longevity. The forceful solitude of these social beings drives them into having mental disorders like stereotypic behaviour like an elephant swaying its head sideways. To us, it may seem amusing but for an elephant it is the evidence of years of captivity, boredom, torture and cruelty. Riding an elephant robs the elephant of her right to a natural life. Elephants are born to be wild and free.

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