Riding an elephant is often touted as a “once in a lifetime” experience for tourists. But in many places in the world elephants used in tourism suffer from cruel training methods aimed at breaking their will and in order to force the animal to allow humans on its back.
The “Phajaan”, also known as The Crush or Crushing is the cruel practice of using repeated torture in the form of tying an elephant up with ropes and putting them in a stall or cage where they cannot move. It’s goal is “to divorce the baby elephant from its spirit” or to “split the will”. The process can also involve elephants being beaten by sticks, chains or bullhooks. The elephants are also starved and sleep deprived. The practice targets Asian elephants in countries like Thailand, and Myanmar, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
The UN Report ‘Gone Astray’ outlines the “training crush” method used in Myanmar and Thailand where much of the elephant tourism is found. Progress has been made since the report published in 1967. But Phajaan still happens, if not for the tourism trade then for work like logging.
Even once their will has been broken, the elephants are subject to continued punishment.
Groups like the Elephant Project, Asian Elephant Conservation Fund and Save the Asian Elephant and Animals Asia are working to help Asian elephants be treated with respect and diminish elephant human conflicts and build a sustainable future for these magnificent beasts.