Posted on 04/12/2015

#Culture #Thailand

Thai elephant massages have a darker side

Another video has emerged of a holidaymaker in Thailand receiving a massage from two elephants. It may seem sweet at first glance, but the lives of the elephants in this video and others like it are far from happy...

It sounds like an amazing experience, relaxing on a sun lounger whilst two elephants lightly massage your with their trunks and feet. This activity is common in South East Asia and videos like the one below have been circulating the internet for years.

The life of a trained elephant

The life of a trained elephant


Most owners and trainers portray the activity as innocent and playful, with one particular camp in Thailand, the Mae Ping Elephant Camp, even filming its elephants playing musical instruments and playing football.

Though the videos make for cute watching, what trainers won't tell you is that nearly all these elephants are taken away from their mothers when they are babies and forced into gruelling training aimed at destroying their self-esteem.

Various practices include stabbing the baby elephants, locking them up in small cages, starving them, or refusing them sleep and drink. Often the babies don't survive the process.

Those who make it are left vulnerable and easily controlled, with trainers often using metal bull hooks if the elephants misbehave whilst entertaining clients. It's not just the elephants in the videos that are treated like this, but often those used for the rides or as circus animals.

"Tourists may think activities like riding an elephant do no harm," says Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, senior wildlife and veterinary advisor at World Animal Protection. "But the brutal truth is that breaking these animals' spirits to the point that they allow humans to interact with them involves cruelty at every turn."

Elephant massage

Dr Schmidt-Burbach says the only wait to stop elephant mistreatment is by boycotting attractions that feature rides, performances or any other abnormal elephant activities, not only in Thailand but in countries all over the world.

But there's still hope. There are places out there that are trying to put a stop to this treatment. For example, Places such as the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand, are working every day to put a stop to elephant cruelty. Many of the park's elephants have been rescued from brutal trainers and allow visitors to interact with the elephants in a natural environment.