In Asia, Phajaan (a traditional training method) continues to be used to ‘tame’ elephants by essentially exploiting and abusing them until they are so subdued and submissive that their ‘spirits have been crushed’. 'The Crush' means "to divorce the baby elephant from its spirit" or to ''split the will" of a baby elephant.
The cruelty and abuse (which includes stabbing, beating, starving and ripping the elephant's ears with a bullhook) is performed on baby elephants and it ensures that the baby is so terrified of its handlers that it will never dare to show any emotions or disobey its captors.
If there is no demand for performing or trekking elephants in circuses or the tourism industry, then the need for such brutal, heartless and barbaric training techniques will decrease.
Only recently are scientists uncovering the extraordinary intelligence of elephants. Examples of their striking similarity to humans include their use of tools, mourning rituals, remarkable memories, capacity for empathy and the fact that they are able to identify different human languages.
A study done by World Animal Protection revealed that more than three quarters of nearly 3,000 elephants used for tourist entertainment in Asia are kept in ‘severely-cruel conditions’. The article which published these statistics also said that ‘Conditions in Thailand proved most concerning, with almost twice the number of elephants used for tourism there than all the other Asian countries combined.
Several venues are generating estimated profits of tens of thousands of dollars per month from exploiting Asian elephants – an endangered species.’
The fact that Asian elephants are endangered makes this whole practice even more appalling - if that’s possible.
I feel compelled to educate people- in particular my generation- on the shameful and repulsive happenings that take place. I have spoken to many of my friends who had almost all ridden elephants whilst in the Far East and were shocked to hear of the barbaric practices used to ‘tame’ the elephants just for our amusement.
I intend to travel out to Thailand this summer to capture on film, and expose the cruel practices that are used before tourists can have that ‘fun’ holiday experience of riding an elephant. I endeavour to document my travels through Thailand, chronicling the practice of Phajaan and its negative implications on the elephant’s welfare and physiological and psychological wellbeing. I aim to interview prominent elephant conservationists involved in the field and visit genuine sanctuaries such as Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. I would like to film the work of the teams of dedicated people who rescue the elephants and above all, highlight the desperate plight of these magnificent creatures.
Essentially, I will be making a documentary that exposes the cruel industry and showing it through my eyes- a 15 year old desperate to help elephants and improve their dire situation. I truly believe that the footage I capture, coupled with poignant anecdotes and informative interviews, will help to shift the public’s approach and subsequently improve the lives of many of these highly intelligent and cognisant animals.
I, along with several other teens, am currently organising a march that will take place in London on July 21st. 'It will be a national day of mass action, led by youth - an ideal platform to ensure that young voices are not only centered in this conversation, but that politicians and adults will hear our voices loud and clear! The mission of the Zero Hour movement is to center the voices of diverse youth in the conversation around climate and environmental justice. Zero Hour is a youth-led movement creating entry points, training, and resources for new young activists and organizers (and adults who support our vision) wanting to take concrete action around climate change. Together, we are a movement of unstoppable youth organizing to protect our rights and access to the natural resources and a clean, safe, and healthy environment that will ensure a livable future where we not just survive, but flourish.'