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Why you should never ride on an elephant

Why you should never ride on an elephant

The animals used for tourism and human labor are more common than uncommon in many places in the world. An animal that is particularly affected is the elephant, which is an animal that many have as their favorite animal. 

Many people dream about riding on these amazing elephants, but the truth is that it’s the last thing you should do if you really love them.

I’m sure that most people who say they love elephants are actually doing it, but they have no idea what goes on behind the scenes and what the elephants get exposed to. Unfortunately, we don’t learn in school that animals and humans are equal or that you should never make an animal do something that wouldn’t be okay if was a human.

Therefore, I hope through this post to spread further knowledge about why one should never ride on an elephant so that there can be a change where they don’t have to be used for tourism and work any longer.

If you love elephants, and your dream is to ride the elephants, this is something that you really should take some time to read!

The awful truth behind the scenes

When the elephants are babies, they are being taken from their mother to begin the so-called breaking process, also known as Phajaan (meaning crush or tear).

What this really means can be difficult to understand and take in; Therefore, I will let you see it with your own eyes in the video below. After that, there will no longer be any doubt about what Phajaan means in reality, and you will know exactly what all the elephants in captivity, are being forced to experience.

The reason why they need break down the elephants in this way is to crush their souls, and that they should not dare to do anything other than to obey its owner. Otherwise, elephants would never obey us humans and let us use them for work and riding.

How Phajaan works:

  • Bound by their feet with rope which is later on replaced with chains
  • Forcing the elephant to have stretched limbs
  • Beaten with sharp objects
  • Abusing them verbally by shouting and cursing
  • Mutilated by hooks that are used to stick his head, scratching the skin and pluck its ears.
  • Phajaan is going on for several weeks where they also starve the elephant for maximum pain and suffer.

The breaking process, Phajaan is the most common method in Asia and is mostly used in Thailand, Myanmar, and India. But there are also other methods to break down and destroy the elephant’s soul, below you can see how an elephant is caught in a pit trap and chained up.


Elephant chained up in a pit trap in Myanmar

Elephant rides = Cruel

Elephant rides may seem harmless to an unknown visitor, and many certainly think that elephants are a big and strong animal that can handle it without problems. And of course elephants are strong animals, but their spine is not made for a man to sit on it, much less two people + seating.

Imagine if you were to go around and carry a backpack all day, every day. Already after the first day, you would feel it, and after a couple of days, your back would begin to degrade. The same goes for elephants.

It is not just the weight that is the problem, but also the “chair” which is scratching the skin and creates tiny wounds that get infected. In addition to that, they are also overextending their feet, leading to damage and infection.

If you choose to ride on elephants, you are supporting the mistreatment of animals. The same applies if you go to the circus and other performances involving exploited animals.

Do not believe everything you hear

Some places that are offering elephant rides claim that they are nice and better than other places. But this is not true. No place in the world is kind if they are allowing elephant rides. Every elephant in captivity that allows a person to ride on them has gone through some type of breaking process.

Some places chain their elephants, and claim it’s for their “own good.” I wonder what they would say if they were chained up for the same “reason.”

Elephants are kind animals, and they definitely don’t need to be chained up, they would never hurt anyone else as long as they’re are not being threatened.

What you can do instead

Instead of riding the elephants, you can visit a sanctuary where elephants living free and not stuck in the ropes or chains. Where you get the opportunity to spend time with the elephants that have been rescued from tree logging work, circuses, elephant riding and other exploitations.

Now you may be thinking, “but if they are in a sanctuary, they’re still in captivity?” And yes, you are absolutely right, and your mindset is good, but without these reserves, the elephants would be captured again, or worse, be left where they were being tormented every day.

On a good sanctuary, they walk around freely on large surfaces and everything takes place within the elephant’s conditions. A good example of a safe haven that makes an incredibly important job, it is located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Elephant Nature Park, which is owned and run by Save the Elephants Foundation and Thai woman Lek Chailert.

I have visited the Elephant Nature Park, and if you want to meet elephants, this is the place to go in Thailand. Here you can swim and take a bath with the elephants and follow when they walk through the jungle. You also get to feed and pet them, but everything takes place in adhering to the elephant’s own will.

Elephant nature park

Me and Alien Chris @ Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Why elephants are being used

Elephants have been used as working animals for a long time in Asia, even in war (India). They are being used because they are strong, but vulnerable when they are small. It is relatively easy to catch a baby elephant, especially after you’ve killed its mother.

Elephants are still used to deforestation and transporting trees in Asia, but nowadays it is mostly a different kind of exploitation that threatens the well-being of elephants, and it’s tourists who contribute to this.

Local people who abuse and exploit the elephants just want to survive and make money. One must remember that the countries where the animals are being exploited are incredibly poor, and when tourists come and waving money, it is clear that they can not refuse.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists each year choose to ride on an elephant or taking photos with them. For that, most pay lots of money, which makes use of elephants to a lucrative industry. So the only way to stop the abuse and exploitation of them is to stop supporting it.

As long as tourists continue to pay for a ride onill still be available. But if instead boycotting all places offering elephant riding, we can make a change and give them a better life.


Now you know why you never should ride on elephants nor support other activities that include the use of elephants. If you know someone who would like to ride the elephants, so it is high time to inform them of the awful truth and why not to do it.

It is only together and through knowledge we can create change and make life better for elephants.

  • Never support anything that exploits elephants (riding, circus, photo on the town etc)
  • Never Ride on an elephant (their spinal will break)
  • If you know someone who would like to ride on elephants – Give them knowledge


If you’re wondering if I feel the same about other animals, the answer is yes. No animal should ever be exploited for human entertainment. This applies to both exotic animals and “normal” animals, and yes, even pets.

All animals are equal, and we humans have no right to use them. A good way of thinking to know if something with animals is okay or not; “Would it be okay if it were a person?”.

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Friday 17th of August 2018

I started to cry to hell when I saw the video... Alex would you so kind to start a petition on care that such animals abuse must be stopped?

I would directly support this petition!! Please let me know your decision!

Thx 4 sharing your post!


Thursday 10th of August 2017

Absolutely, anhumanity acts!!!


Wednesday 9th of August 2017

I honestly can't look at this. It breaks my ❤️ heart it really dies. And sorry I've thought long and hard about the poverty angle and it is still not acceptable.

T. Giroux

Wednesday 15th of August 2018

Heartbreaking that humans can treat mistreat such majestic beings, so sad that many of us cannot perceive the intelligence and wonder of these animals.

Alexander Waltner

Wednesday 9th of August 2017

I fully agree. But if you haven't been in that situation it's hard to imagine. Lots of people in Asia are seriously poor. I mean some live of wages as low as 1 or 2 dollars a day. That's crazy. But of course, nothing can ever make it acceptable to abuse animals like this, nothing.

But I think, we, the tourists must take the responsibility and stop supporting these activities. If nobody wants it, then they would do something else to make money.

Jacob - Everyday Explorers

Monday 12th of September 2016

Jätteviktig artikel! Sitter själv och skissar på ett utkast för en liknande artikel om djurturism. Det är ett stort problem som många väljer att blunda för.

Alexander Waltner

Monday 12th of September 2016

Så sant. Härligt att även ni lägger vikt på att informera om det. Ju fler vi är desto bättre! Önskar bara att större företag och resebolag kände samma sak som oss och att de börjar bojkotta djurplågeri. Förhoppningsvis kan vi bidra till det bättre och påverka dem!