Stop the torture & abuse of Asian Elephants (STAE) urges all to join their call for a new UK law to stop the advertising and promotion of tourist destinations that rely on the pain and suffering of this abused and endangered species
Duncan McNair, founder of the not-for-profit STAE, says: “Baby and calf Asian elephants are taken from the wild, tortured and abused to ‘break their spirits’ in a process called ‘pajan’ for easy use in tourist attractions and for close-up encounters. Brutalised to perform tricks, games and allow rides, these elephants are reminded of their torture and fear by daily stabbings of sensitive parts of their body to ensure their continued submission.”
Malnourished, fiercely tethered in isolation in filthy conditions, Asian elephants often snap when provoked resulting in injuries and deaths of tourists. Hundreds of such injuries and deaths have been recorded. Many more are inevitable as the travel industry’s marketing campaign to SE Asian destinations resumes as international travel restrictions are lifted.
Helen Costigan, whose sister Andrea died after an elephant attack at Nong Nooch elephant park, Thailand in 2000, says: “I also nearly lost my life. My Dad was badly injured too and never recovered from the emotional heartache. Before visiting the park we were unaware of the dangers of being so close to elephants and had no idea of the pain and suffering that Asian elephants go through to ‘perform’ for tourists.”
Francine van den Berg, a visitor to Nong Nooch 14 years later who witnessed the same appalling conditions for the elephants and total disregard for visitor safety says: “I was looking to visit a botanical garden … the travel agent did not tell me I would visit an amusement park where tourists, families and children come to be entertained by elephants that have been systematically tortured for their fun. When I visited there were no proper barriers, no signs of danger, no staff of any use, nothing.”
In addition, broken down elephants held in close confinement are, when they exhale, cough and spray water, highly effective transmitters to humans of deadly airborne viruses such as TB and (it is now apparent) Covid-19, both global pandemics that kill millions.
UK tourists are currently able to book package holidays and experiences with elephants at venues that use these abhorrent practices to enable these dangerous and unhealthy close encounters, with tourists unaware of the backdrop of horror to those ‘memorable’ photographs.
Duncan McNair continues: “STAE has collected evidence over 6 years showing the huge role the UK tourist industry plays in promoting these brutal venues. To date STAE has revealed 238 brutal venues advertised in the UK by 1,159 companies through 2,796 adverts. Numerous broken promises of change by companies have also been recorded which resume advertising these venues after promising to stop.
This is why STAE has been working closely with government and legislators to introduce a new law – the ‘Animals Abroad’ Bill – to put a stop once and for all to the advertising of such holidays and experiences, with penalties significant enough to deter first-time and especially repeat offenders.”
The draft Animals Abroad Bill, due to be introduced into Parliament in Autumn 2021 is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare which also covers improved protection for pets and livestock and due consideration of the sentience of all animal species.
“In the meantime,” Duncan concludes, “as world-wide travel begins to open up UK tourists must take care at the time of booking their package holiday across Asia, and when choosing attractions at their destinations, that they are not visiting or continuing to support venues that abuse and torture elephants.”
Everyone can take action now and show the strength of public support for this new law by signing STAE’s petition on change.org which already has in excess of 1 million signatures https://bit.ly/3yzveTO