The big winners in Thailand’s elephant polo this year? That would be the elephants — and that would be because the sport in the southeast Asian country is, happily, coming to an end.
For 16 years, the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has been the highlight of the Bangkok social season. And over the years, the tournament — held at the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, owned by the Minor Hotel Group — has indeed raised more than 1.5 million (USD), mainly for animal-related charities, noted the Bangkok-based TTR Weekly.
But a video secretly recorded by the animal-rights group Peta (a Moving Giants “Elephant Champion”), showed what life behind the scenes was like for the elephants in the sport. As One Green Planet reported, “The video shows handlers brutally stabbing elephants with bullhooks, pulling them by their sensitive ears, and stabbing and hammering their heads so violently that blood is drawn.”
Peta circulated the video and started to pressure some of the events sponsors. As Peta itself reported, “After a PETA Asia eyewitness exposé revealed that elephants are repeatedly beaten and gouged with bullhooks and their ears are violently yanked in training for the cruel King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Thailand, a dozen sponsors — including Angus Energy, Banfi, the Campari Group, Ecolab, IBM, Johnnie Walker, and Vespa — severed ties with the event.”
The loss of the event proved to be too big a blow for the sport itself to fend off. As Live Kindly wrote, “The Thailand Elephant Polo Association, the organization behind the exploitative event, has ceased operations, effectively creating an end to the cruel sport.”