When I booked my flights to Thailand two and a half years ago I wanted to meet some elephants so so so badly – but I was terrified that I might support some crucial Elephant tour operators. So I did my research, found my “fair trade” elephants, loved the day but am still thinking about this descision now, more than two years later.
I chose Patara Elephant farm which had great reviews that turned out true when the day had come finally. I couldn’t see anyone ever beating an elephant or just thinking about it (yes, I know, I know, how can I know, right?) or any elephant that was in chains or in the wrong environment. They had a huuuuge piece of land where several elephants, mostly former “tourist” elephants finally found peace and got great food.
During the day, we learned a lot about elephants (I even know how healthy elephant poo smells now), got “our” elephant for the day, checked if the elephant was healthy, fed it, washed it and, finally, rode it.
My elephant was called May Kammun and was my absolute soulmate! She was always hungry. At every chance she left the path to eat and we were the last ones. One time, when there was an old bath tub with some pellets at our stop she just inhaled them with her trunk and shot them in her mouth. I couldn’t stop laughing.
It was a truly incredible day, we had two rides of 45 minutes each and a delicious lunch. I’ve never eaten anything better in life and it was completely healthy and – except the meat of course – vegan! I never knew it could taste this good!
I loved the day, I really, really loved it and couldn’t stop smiling. Just now, some years later, I’m constantly thinking about my experience and if it was ethically okay.
I thought it was when I booked, otherwise I wouldn’t have booked. If there’s one thing I really care about it’s about being responsible and about animals being treated well, especially when it comes to tourism. I decided not to go to the Tiger Kingdom (and I’m super happy that I did NOT go) and when I saw the other elephant tours with chained and hurt elephants I felt extremely happy and thought I did the right thing. But now, that more and more “Don’t ride an elephant”-articles pop up I’m not sure anymore if my descision was ethically correct. I always thought as long as they treat the elephants well I don’t need to mind riding them. We talked about this also with our tour guides. They said that if you compare our weight with the one of the elephant it feels for them like it feels for us carrying a a book. They don’t mind. I felt pacified. When I read some articles in the web now they judged riding an elephant because it’s not natural. Yes, they’re soo right and I don’t know how I could forget this point (maybe it happened in my over-excitement). I saw pictures of how elephants get used to letting humans ride on them and I almost cried. So now I’m here on this point where I don’t know if I should still call this the best day in my life or if I should feel guilty that I rode an elephant.
One the one hand I could argue that these were all rescued elephants that were used to humans anyways. They have a good life in this camp and they get treated well so I did nothing wrong, right? Right? I really don’t know. On the other hand people like me might be the reason that other people will always force elephants to let humans ride on them or not?
If I would sum up my current mindset it would be a very very guilty look back at the best day of my life. I love animals and I can’t stand the thought that I’m the reason why elephants get tortured.
What’s your thought?