“Agents have great responsibility” to stop cruelty

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Event highlights agents’ role in changing elephant entertainment
At a recent event with adventure company Intrepid Travel, World Animal Protection and celebrity ambassador Alesha Dixon, TTG learned more about elephant cruelty in Asia and how the travel trade can avoid associating with it.
In 2010, Intrepid Travel conducted extensive research into tour operators dealing with elephants and as a result banned elephant riding from all its holidays.
Since then, more than 150 travel companies have done the same, and the movement against using elephants as entertainers in Asian countries is gaining traction.
World Animal Protection is pioneering a plan to boycott the inhumane treatment of elephants in the tourism industry with its Unite for the Herd campaign.
The action calls for agents and anyone else passionate about the issue to sign a petition at worldanimalprotection.org/pledge-for-elephants.
The charity and its ambassador, singer and model Alesha Dixon, teamed up with Intrepid to host a one-off event discussing the campaign and its importance.
“Agents have a great responsibility – they are the gatekeepers and the most important part of the puzzle. We need their help to change mindsets and make a difference,” Dixon says.
To identify an elephant-friendly company, agents can download a list of elephant-friendly travel firms at worldanimalprotection.org.uk.
If the company being considered is not listed, there are a number of factors that agents can use. If you can ride it, hug it or take a selfie with it, there is a high chance the elephant is being mistreated.
Agents can then ask: Is it living in a spacious natural environment? Is it allowed to mingle with other elephants? Are the mahouts (elephant keepers or trainers) honest about the realities of keeping elephants?
There are methods owners use for taking baby elephants from their mothers, breaking their spirit. The fear they encounter is then used to force them to carry tourists and perform circus acts for the rest of their lives.
Agents are advised that “there is another way to get close to elephants, not in shows or during rides. See them in their natural habitat and bonding with their family.”
There are more than 3,000 captive elephants in tourism in Asia. As many as 96% of venues that offer rides keep their elephants in cruel and unacceptable living conditions. Around 150 travel companies have already committed to ending the sale and promotion of venues that offer elephant entertainment.