The animal welfare community has done a pretty great job of raising awareness around why riding elephants is so unethical. Unfortunately, some folks still haven't gotten the message. Kim Kardashian West appears to fall into the latter group. While on vacation, she posted pictures of herself riding an elephant and the internet was quick to call her out.
We're gonna leave this story for the tabloids but it does present a great opportunity to point out why riding an elephant is never in the elephants best interest. Pass it on:
Elephants are not easily domesticated animals. (Read: elephants don't really want to carry you around.) In order to force the elephant into submission, trainers take baby elephants from their mothers and start a process called "the crush."
"Tourists may think activities like riding an elephant do no harm," Senior Veterinary Advisor at World Animal Protection, Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach told The Dodo. "But the brutal truth is that breaking these animals' spirits to the point that they allow humans to interact with them involves cruelty at every turn."
The elephants are beaten and their spirits are broken to prepare them for a life in the tourism industry.
Demand for elephant rides from western tourists has pushed people to extremes: trapping wild elephants and participating in the illegal wildlife trade, which puts countless animals in danger.
People want to ride elephants because they want to be near them. If you want to do that in a way that doesn't hurt the animal, view the species in the wild... and don't climb on its back.