A resort in Thailand sparked controversy after posting photos to social media of drunken patrons riding a baby elephant around the pool.
The photos, accompanied by a caption that read, “amazing Sunday brunch,” immediately caused outrage among animal rights activists and concerned animal lovers throughout the social media world. Critics slammed the resort for bringing a baby elephant to the resort in the first place, as well as allowing guests to ride it for fun.
The photos were deleted soon after the backlash began, and the hotel issued a statement in response.
“Elephants are a highly respected and regarded symbol of Thailand. As a global company, Nikki Beach respects every country’s culture and traditions and as such, we fall into the normal behaviours [sic] in usage of elephants to represent their culture. We never intended to be disrespectful and/or offend anyone,” the resort’s statement read.
Shortly after issuing their response, a Nikki Beach spokeswoman said that the resort would no longer bring elephants on the premises to be ridden by guests.
“We would like to make it clear that we do not, have not and will never own an elephant. The elephant in the photo is from a reputable elephant caretaker who has no affiliation with Nikki Beach,” spokeswoman Julie Fogel told new.com.au. “With the above said, we understand that this has upset many of our customers and animal advocates around the world, so effective immediately, we will stop granting the requests for elephants at Nikki Beach Phuket. The Nikki Beach family will never stand for the mistreatment of animals.”
According to reports, many companies and organizations have questioned the ethics behind riding elephants, and travel company Intrepid Travel recently became one of a growing number of international companies to denounce the practice.
“People often think that an elephant in captivity is domesticated, and so somehow it’s OK to have them under human command," the company's statement on the matter, issued in May 2014, read. "But the reality is that they never have been domesticated like dogs or horses. Even if born in captivity, they are still a wild animal, and need to be ‘broken’ to accept human control. There is much evidence that this process is exceptionally cruel.
“Yes, there are a considerable number of elephants that have been rescued from working in industries like logging and their carers need to earn a living to feed and care for them," the statement continued. "But we’ve also learnt that the numbers of elephants being poached from the wild has increased to fuel the tourism demand for rides and entertainment ... So at Intrepid we took a stance over two years ago and began to phase out venues of concern and elephant rides.”
Photo Credit: dailymail.co.uk, WikiCommons