One thing that I learned while traveling through Asia, was that it’s unfortunately quite common that elephants are abused for the sake of tourist’s entertainment abroad. Elephant abuse is happening in many countries around the world, where they’re treated like slaves for our entertainment. 

For me, it’s very strange that people say that they say that elephants are their favorite animal when they at the same time dream to ride an elephant. If you really love and care for elephants, then elephant riding is the last thing that you should do. It’s horrible that the majority of our population don’t know what’s going on behind the elephant entertainment – and who’s to blame since animal cruelty isn’t much talked about in media or school? 

With this article, I’m really hoping to spread some knowledge about elephant abuse, show you what’s going on behind closed doors, and tell you why you never should do elephant riding! The animal cruelty has to come to an end!

Here’s why you never should support elephant riding:

The Horrible Truth Behind Closed Doors

It’s so horrible that people who ride on elephants, don’t even know what’s happening behind the curtains. And I think that if they knew, those people would never see elephant riding as something fun again.

The animal cruelty starts when the elephants are babies. They’re taken away from their mothers to begin the so-called ”breaking process,” also known as Phajaan, with the meaning of crush or tear. Since it’s not enough to explain what Phajaan means with words, I’ve attached a video for you to see it with your own eyes. 

Even though this video is both disturbing and upsetting, I still recommend you to watch it. It’s important that people get to see the real side of elephant riding, to see how their lives are before living a life as a slave for humans.


If you now have watched the video, and still don’t understand why they do these horrible things to the elephants – it’s because they want to crush their soul. If they break their soul, the elephant’s will not dare to disobey its ”owner.” Without the Phajaan, the elephants would never let the humans abuse them for hard work and entertainment. 

How Phajaan Works – Step by Step:

  • They bind their feet with ropes – later replaced with chains.
  • They force the elephants to have stretched limbs.
  • The elephants are beaten with sharp objects.
  • They abuse them through shouting and cursing at them.
  • Hooks mutilate the elephants that the humans beat into their heads, scratch on their skin and hurt their ears. 
  • This breaking process is going on for several weeks, where they also starve the elephants to maximize the pain and suffer.

Phajaan is the most common method using towards elephants in Asia – including popular destinations such as; Thailand, Myanmar, and India. 

Elephant Riding Jaipur

If You Do Elephant Riding – You Support Animal Cruelty

The most people might think that elephants seem to like doing their ”job” and that it’s harmless – it’s not true. Yeah sure, elephants are strong animals, but their spine isn’t made for carrying around heavy tourists. 

Imagine yourself carrying around a heavy backpack all day, day in and day out. The first day you would feel a small pain in your back, and after a couple of more days, your back would start to degrade. It’s the same thing for elephants. Not only is the weight affecting their pain – but also the seating for the humans scratch their skin and creates small wounds that get infected. Overextending their feet is also another big problem that causes damage and infection to the elephants. 

Just imagine a life that starts with you being taken away from your mother; all scared and alone. Then being tortured, starved and then treated like a slave for the rest of your days – To live a whole life in pain and fear, that’s just heartbreaking. 

If you choose to do elephant riding, you support animal cruelty. The same thing applies if you attend a circus or other shows involving exploited animals.  

Please, Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

From this article, you might have figured out that some people do everything to earn some money. Please, don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it comes to elephant riding. Many of the places that offer elephant riding claim that they treat the animals well and that the elephants like to walk you around – that’s a big fat lie. No place in this world ‘s good if they allow elephant riding, and that’s because no elephant would allow humans to ride on them unless they’ve been through a breaking process of any kind. 

Many of these places and ”sanctuaries” also keep ”their” elephants in chains, and claims that it’s for the elephants own good. Once again, a total lie. It’s just another lie and excuse to make sure that the elephants don’t escape their nightmare when the humans look away. 

elephant chains

If You Dream About Meeting an Elephant, This is What You Should Do:

If you really dream about meeting an elephant – visit a sanctuary! At an elephant sanctuary, you get the chance to meet formerly abused elephants that get rehabilitated and lives a free life in an environment of loving and kind people. Visiting a sanctuary gives you the possibility to spend some time with the elephants that have been rescued from tree logging work, circuses, elephant riding and other kinds of cruel entertainment and labor.

Now you might think; ”But, if they live at a sanctuary. Aren’t they still in captivity?”. Yes, that might be true, but without these loving havens, the elephants would probably be captured and abused again. 

When visiting a sanctuary, it’s important to separate the good ones from the bad ones. A good sanctuary is where the elephants can roam freely on large surfaces, where everything takes place within the terms of the elephants and not the humans. 

I get so sad and mad when I see on social media, especially on Instagram, travelers visiting these so-called ”elephant sanctuaries.” Remember, just because a place is called a sanctuary, it’s not sure that it’s as good as it sounds or like they tell you it is. I’ve seen pictures of elephants with chains/ropes around their necks, people riding without the seating and also individuals who stand/lay down on elephants while bathing in lakes to take photos – and I promise you, that’s not how it should be at a real sanctuary.

elephant river

Elephants are not living on this planet to work day in and day out to slave for humans – the animal cruelty has to come to an end!   

While traveling through Asia, I did my research about the elephant sanctuaries, and I decided to go to the amazing Elephant Nature Park outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The money you spend visiting this place is totally worth it since it goes directly to keep this place running and to pay for the elephant’s food (they eat lots and lots of food haha). If you’re looking for an unforgettable time with formerly abused elephants, then this is the perfect place. At Elephant Nature Park you get to interact with the elephants (all on their terms), follow them on lovely walks through the jungle, and also give them nice baths. 

The most beautiful thing about this place is that the elephants can walk away at any time if they feel uncomfortable. You always have to follow the sanctuary’s rules; no screaming/loud talking, no standing in front of the elephants and to always respect them and show them the love that they deserve. 

A visit to the Elephant Nature Park was truly a life-changing experience, and I highly recommend you going there to meet the beautiful elephants! ♡

elephant nature park

This elephant was rescued from tree logging work in Thailand. You can see on her right front leg that she’s got a permanent injury from a working with a broken leg.

Summary of Why You Never Should Support Elephant Riding:

Now you’ve heard the whole story about animal cruelty towards elephants, and now I hope that you know why you never should ride on an elephant or support other activities including abuse of elephants or other animals. Please, if you know someone that are dreaming about going to Asia and ride on an elephant – inform them about how horrible it is, and what they can do instead!

It’s important that we all come together to make these horrible actions come to an end! Together through knowledge, we can make this world a better place.

If you ever stumble upon animal attractions and you’re not sure if it’s bad or not towards the animals – always think this way; If it’s not OK towards humans, then it’s NOT ok towards animals!

Me meeting the beautiful elephant Tilly at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A life-changing experience for me!

To help all the elephants that are exploited in this world, please, share this article to spread the knowledge and message forward. ♡ If you share this article on Facebook, make sure to make the post public so we can reach a bigger audience!