Sunday 4 October: One of the best known names in the travel industry is still promoting elephant rides, despite being made aware of the cruelty involved, reveals the international animal charity, World Animal Protection.
The Thomas Cook Group, who claim on their website that they “care deeply about animal welfare” still sell tours to a number of venues that promote animal abuses in Thailand, India and Zimbabwe. The global headquarters of the travel agent has ignored multiple approaches from World Animal Protection asking them to sign their Elephant-friendly Tourist Pledge.
While elephant rides are a popular tourist activity, behind the scenes they cause huge suffering for the animals. Taken from their mothers when young, they are isolated, starved and beaten until their spirits are broken in a barbaric training method known as “the crush”.
These baby elephants often suffer from bloody wounds inflicted during these beatings. The trauma they endure stays with them throughout their lives, and can leave them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Approximately 3,000 elephants are suffering in captivity today in cruel entertainment venues across Asia and Southern Africa.
Thomas Cook promotes and sells elephant rides, feeding and souvenir photo experiences. This is in sharp contrast to their website, which states that Thomas Cook aims “to help…develop ways to protect the welfare of animals in tourist attractions.”
World Animal Protection began conversations with Thomas Cook Northern Europe in January 2014, and although they still won’t sign the Elephant-friendly Tourist Pledge, they have this week committed to stop selling elephant rides and shows from the start of their 2015 winter season in this market only. Whilst this is welcome, it is a further sign that The Thomas Cook Group’s position towards animal welfare is contradictory.
63 travel companies across the world have stopped selling elephant rides and shows following World Animal Protection approaches. This includes The Travel Corporation, which features major brands Contiki and Trafalgar. G Adventures, the world’s largest small-group adventure travel company, has also made this commitment.
Kate Nustedt, Director of Wildlife at World Animal Protection says: “We are shocked that a house-hold name like Thomas Cook is behind the curve on animal welfare and appears unwilling to end the promotion of cruel elephant rides in all its markets.
“Thomas Cook is the oldest and best known name in travel dating back to 1841. Over 22 million customers choose to travel with them each year, with sales of over £8.5bn, demonstrating the importance they could play in stopping the promotion of elephant rides.
“We’d welcome the chance to work with Thomas Cook on solutions that not only put a stop to cruel elephant rides and shows, but also ensure that tourists can enjoy seeing elephants in the wild.”
World Animal Protection launched its campaign Wildlife – Not Entertainers in August 2015, and over 70,000 people have already joined the movement to protect wild animals and stop them being abused in entertainment. The charity also promoted an animation last month to help bring the plight of elephants in the entertainment industry to life.