Is elephant bathing ethical?

Mud or river bathing is often considered to be an ethical alternative to riding, but did you know that bathing an elephant can be as detrimental to its welfare as riding?
 

Think about it: what do you see when elephants bathe in the wild? Do they stand still or do they play together?
 

What do you see when people bathe elephants? Do the elephants stand still or do they play together? 
 

When tourists bathe elephants, the elephants are

generally not allowed to move, and only on command. Playing and rolling over (as they do in the wild) could crush or drown a human.

 

So how does an elephant 'learn' to stay still?

 

Usually, through the use of a bullhook or hidden sharp object such as a nail.

Behind the scenes

When an elephant is not being bathed, it is usually taken back to one spot and chained up to await the next lot of tourists. Bathing elephants are also often used for riding when not being bathed.

 

The elephant might therefore not get sufficient exercise (in the wild, elephants can travel up to 125km a day), have the ability to forage or interact with other elephants - all things that are essential to an elephant's mental health and well-being. 

Find out more.

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