Honestly, Westerners are so, as my girls would say; “woke.” I admit that I have many issues that “get my goat” as it were. Things that I wish were completely different than they are, in fact this entire blog of mine is all about exactly that. So I’m not entirely shocked by North Americans who have a lot to say on maybe world issues, but it does fascinate me how much time people some of us seem to have on our hands. Some Westerners appear to have so much extra time that they’re able to pay attention to not only their own lives, but the lives of yours, and mine as well.
To which I say, lucky them.
How lucky that some people have enough spare minutes/hours/days on their hands that they can put so much of their energy into caring about things that have absolutely nothing to do with them. For example, the entire Thailand elephant thing, so many people in North America have so much to say about the handling of these magnificent creatures but I have to wonder how many of these people have actually been in conversation with people who care for them? How many have been to a sanctuary, and learned about the past lives of the elephants, or tried to handle one on their own. I’d love to get stats on this.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai we asked the locals who work at our resort which sanctuary was, in their opinion, since they live here, was the best one to visit. We were assured that it would be the Thai Elephant Centre. We didn’t want to support a place that allowed people to ride them, or invade their space, or disrupt them. The TEC is a place where retired working or sick elephants are living out their days, under the attention, care and affections of one handler. The elephant and their mahout are a couple, living together in harmony. It is a beautiful, symbiotic relationship. It is also a place that is owned and operated by a family who has always cared for, and worked with rescue elephants. It has been their families passion for many generations.
A couple of people on social media didn’t like that we, as a family, chose this particular sanctuary, saying they ride the elephants, and use “crops/prods” to move the elephants. For the record I didn’t see any prodding, or striking, but we were only there for a few hours, so I cannot say unequivocally that this is not a practice that happens here. I did see the Mahouts riding their elephants. But so do people who own horses. I will say this; I take riding lessons, and I use my crop, and strike my horse with my heels way more often than I would like to, because you know, it is a giant couple thousand pound animal with a mind of it’s own, who doesn’t simply respond to; “hey horsey we’re going over here now please, and thank you.” Think about how much more difficult it would be to move an elephant around without a rope, or chain?? Should people who ride horses stop riding them since we no longer use our horses to plow our fields, or take us from Point A-Point B? Should we also let our dogs run wild without a collar or lead on them as well??
Should we? I mean these are fair questions I have for people who are all up in arms about Mahouts riding the elephants they handle. People don’t ride them. For example it wasn’t an option for us to climb up on the elephants and ride them. People noticed that the elephant had a chain on. Yup she did. And another had a rope on her leg. The one in our video had a chain on her because she is blind in one eye, and when she starts to wander off in that direction, her bad eye direction, her Mahout uses the chain to guide her back on track. Truth be told I didn’t like the fact that she had a chain around her ankle either, but my dogs both wear choke collars, because they’re both large, strong stubborn dogs, that when they put their minds to something, they’re almost impossible to move. They’re 55, and 75 pounds, imagine if they weighed THOUSANDS of pounds? How on earth would you move a half blind elephant around without a “leash”??? The short answer is you wouldn’t. So what’s the deal here? Why are we cool with horses having bits in their mouths, with reins to steer them, and our dogs to have collars and leashes on them, but not elephants who are in a loving relationship with it’s person???
Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm???
Then there was the issue of them being penned in at this retreat. Well yes they’re in “stables” as it were, but so are horses for most of their lives, and in fact now that Duke insists on peeing in the house whenever the urge hits him, he spends every single night, usually up to eight hours in a dog crate. Do you want to take him away from us? He doesn’t even have access to food and water while he’s in his crate, do you find this cruel?
Actually, I take that question back, these people that are so woke about things they actually don’t have all the information on probably do think crating a dog all night long because he’s hell bent on using every corner of our home and furniture as a bathroom is an asshole thing to do on the human’s part. But I suggest they try cleaning up dog urine day after day, morning after morning for one week and I’m sure these people would change their tune.
Which brings me to my final point of this blog and this subject. These elephants that we spent time with are all elderly/sick. They had been left for dead by the people who “owned” them once they were done with them. In fact, a young male, in his early 40’s has been being nursed for an infection that he has had since his tusks were stolen from him more than twenty years ago. If it weren’t for this sanctuary he would be dead. They keep his wounds clean. They put his medication into his feed, and they love and honour him, and to me I can’t think of a better way to treat an animal who used to be abused.
Don’t even get me started on me wondering what these same “woke” people think about putting an elderly family member into a nursing home. Is it not sometimes the only option left in order for somebody to receive the best care that their family members cannot provide??? I’d say so, and many people must feel the same since there aren’t enough homes out there to house all the aging parents of the planet. For me the TEC is essentially the same thing as a nursing home. At the Thai Elephant Care Centre these animals will live to be, as old as 94, which is the oldest female they have on the property. In the wild they would live half that life span, and don’t even get me started on the eco damage a herd of elephants does on a country. They need 220kgs of greens a day every single day to sustain themselves. Retreats like this allow people to spend time with domesticated elephants and keep them fed in a way that doesn’t destroy forests and natural areas of a place like Thailand. So, before we start throwing stones at how important it is for elephants to roam the earth freely we must also weigh out the impact that a herd of thousands of elephants requires from the land in order to live off the land.
Sort of like vegans and quinoa…and all the rain forests that have been destroyed so they can eat that high protein grain. Just know your facts folks before you go off, and as my girls also say: “Don’t come for me, unless I send for you.”