Animal rights groups have launched a campaign demanding an end “cruel” underwater elephant shows in Thailand.
A video of one of their water performances recently emerged on social media showing trainers pulling on the ears of elephants which were made to “dance” around a giant water tank.
The elephants are also made to do other tricks such as walking on the hind legs and moving around the water as if they were sea creatures.
One elephant is shown bobbing her head up and down the water’s surface while mounted by a trainer tugging on her ears.
She can be seen plunging deep to the bottom of the tank and doing a few tricks before coming back up the surface for air. The trainer is also shown standing on an elephant’s neck at times while pulling on its ears.
Footage also shows a captivated audience who were cheering as the animals do stunts they don’t naturally do in the wild.
While elephants do occasionally swim and use water to cool off, wash and play around in pockets of water in the jungle, the underwater stunts exhibited in the shows are not part of their natural routine.
Advocates believe that the elephants might have been subjected to a cruel training process known as “phajaan” to get them to perform such difficult tasks.
“Phajaan,” which translates to “the crush,” is a brutal training method which involves handlers beating animals into submission to make them extremely docile and thus safe for public exhibition.
Based on a UN report, the training method in Myanmar and Thailand involves restraining an elephant with ropes inside a large, strong cage to keep it from moving. While unable to kick, raise or swing its head, the animal is then stabbed by nails and sticks into the ears and feet.
The process purportedly allows the elephant to learn the basic command “still” or “quiet.”
Some reports claim that there are trainers who try to “break” the elephant and make them submissive by employing tactics such as beating with sticks, chains or bullhooks, sleep-deprivation, hunger, and thirst.
“No elephant would exhibit these types of behaviors in the wild, so in order to make them do so for the crowds, trainers use cruel techniques to make sure their charges will do what they say when they say it,” a statement on the campaign read.
“Elephants, like all other animals, were not created for nor should they be used for our entertainment. They have their own will and desires and deserve to live a life free from cruelty — preferably in the wild where they belong.
“Circuses, magic shows, zoos and aquarium spectacles that use live animals reduce living, breathing beings to objects. In fact, they have no business having elephants period. Facilities that allow the animals in their care to suffer for profit should no longer be given a pass. We must stand up and say enough is enough.”