Published on Friday, July 24, 2020

Celebs back call for new law banning UK travel firms promoting 'cruel elephant tourism'

Famous faces from the world of TV, film, journalism, politics and nature are supporting a campaign to ban the advertising of holidays featuring unethical elephant rides and performances.

The call comes after not-for-profit organisation Save the Asian Elephants (STAE) revealed hundreds of travel firms are advertising holidays in which 'severely abused elephants, including babies, are part of the entertainment'.

That is despite several high-profile campaigns over recent years to raise awareness of the practices used to 'train' elephants, and complaints about their treatment.

Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais called on travel companies to be fined for promoting such tours, while Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said travel firms could be seen as colluding in the cruelty if they use images of Asian elephants carrying tourists in their advertising.

STAE says more than 100 of the travel firms it says is advertising such trips are members of ABTA.

In a recent survey, 90% of people told STAE the government should only allow travel companies to promote Asian elephant-related holidays that take animal welfare into serious consideration.

STAE is to meet with government representatives at Downing Street next week to push the campaign.

Ricky Gervais said travel companies should be fined for having 'the blood of innocent creatures on their hands'.

He said: "Britain must take a lead and bring new law NOW to help end this horrific abuse to the world's most revered creatures. All the travel companies big and small who market this filth should stand in the public dock and pay the price - fines and more for those with the blood of innocent creatures on their hands."

The Prime Minister's father Stanley Johnson said: "I totally support calls for a new UK law banning the advertisement and sale of tourist 'trips' to venues in India and elsewhere where Asian elephants are routinely abused to provide 'entertainment' in the form of rides, tricks and selfies enforced by constant, often fatal, beatings throughout their life."

Coronation Street star Bill Roache said: "If people knew what these majestic beings have been put through for their entertainment they would be horrified. Get the information out there and stop this abuse by banning adverts for such horrible places."

Former Tory cabinet minister Ann Widdecombe said: "The extreme suffering of baby and calf Asian elephants broken for use in so much tourism is appalling. So is the shocking heartlessness of numerous travel companies sending customers to venues where such violence is routinely committed. I join millions in wholeheartedly supporting the campaign to outlaw advertising of such places."

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said: "The abuse of Asian elephants in tourism is an outrage as is the prominent part the UK travel market takes in promoting it. There is very little time left for this keystone species. It is now imperative that the British Government acts immediately to ban such disgraceful and unconscionable advertising."

Naturalist Chris Packham said: "The brutality to Asian elephants in tourism is often described as the worst animal cruelty of all."

Primatologist and anthropologist Dame Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE said: "The systematic violent exploitation of Asian elephants in tourism in SE Asia, much driven by the UK market, is unforgivable and the tragedy is compounded by many broken promises of change. "

A number of venues associated with the unethical elephant tourist trade have recorded deaths, most recently British holiday maker Gareth Crowe in Thailand back in 2016 whilst on an elephant trek with his family.

Other celebrities backing the cause are actors Jenny Seagrove, Maureen Lipman, Rula Lenska, Dan Richardson and Peter Egan, musician Rick Wakeman and journalist Stephen Sackur.

As well as celebrity backing, there is political support calling for the government to act now.

Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard said: "It is incredibly concerning to see Asian Elephant populations continue to decline. There is an urgency around protecting Asian elephants and that's why action is not just necessary it is needed now." 

Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas said: "It's totally wrong for any wild animal to be cruelly exploited to provide entertainment for people. Travel agencies could be colluding in this if they use images of Asian elephants carrying tourists in their advertising.  A new law on advertising is a good place to start."

Duncan McNair, CEO of Save The Asian Elephants, said: "It is fantastic to see celebrities, politicians and ordinary people come together to support this worthwhile cause which seeks to put an end to the systematic and widespread abuse of Asian elephants for tourism gain.

"We are continuing discussions with the UK government on banning this unethical activity, helping to ensure that British tourists are kept safe whilst travelling across Asia and the proper conservation of these wonderous, endangered creatures."

A petition has been set up to highlight the plight of the animals.

Sign the petition here.

By Lisa James, Deputy Editor (UK)


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  • Not true in Southern Africa

    I was partly involved with the first trials in Botswana Elephant rides in Botswana and in Livingstone Victoria falls doe not involve any cruelty. The animals enjoy it and the food security. The are free to forage and can leave any time they wish. the fact that they do not says everything

    By ROD MURPHY, Friday, July 24, 2020

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