By Ludovica Iaccino
NGO World Animal Protection (WAP) has released a video trying to raise awareness of the abuses animals employed in the tourism industry are subjected to.
The footage features an actress pretending to be a staff member at Authentic Elephant Rides, who explains the tools used to torture elephants to make them follow orders.
"Elephants won't naturally let people ride on top of them, so in order to tame them and to give tourists that extra special experience, they are tortured from a very early age to completely break their spirit," she says.
"The process is called phajaan or 'the crush' while ripping them away from their mother and confining them to very small spaces."
"The elephants are beaten into submission with clubs and bull hooks. It is the fear of being stabbed which is used to motivate them to work. The tip has to be really sharp to make sure it pierces the elephant's thick skin," she continues. "And of course they are simultaneously starved and deprived of sleep for days on end.
"There is no other way to ride an elephant."
The video ends with the images of an elephant chained to a tree trying to free himself, and the tagline: "Every day, animals suffer in the name of entertainment".
The footage is part of WAP's Before they Book campaign, which aims to let tourists know the truth "before they book" activities. It sheds light on the worst types of animal cruelty in the tourism industry, with a focus on elephant rides, one of the most popular touristic attractions.
"Right now thousands of tourists are searching online for these kinds of attractions, unaware of the abuse that takes place behind the scenes," a WAP statement said.
"The more people who know the truth, the greater number of animals can be saved from a lifetime of cruelty in the name of animal entertainment."
WAP is also launching an animal friendly guide, which advises tourists how to avoid supporting activities linked to cruelty while travelling.
Mike Baker, chief executive of WAP, said: "What we need to do is alert people to the wildlife suffering in this industry. We don't want that once in a lifetime experience to be a lifetime of misery for the animal."
"If an animal is doing something it wouldn't do in the wild then it's probably not right and something has gone on to make them behave that way," he added.
"Take elephant rides – you couldn't just jump on a wild elephant's back, there's a process to get them there. They're chained up, beaten. And what we've realised is most people don't want that." Video.