World Animal Day falls today, October 4, and while it’s hard to know which animal rights issue will go viral over the next few hours, PETA Asia’s efforts to persuade the Minor Hotel Group to stop organising the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Thailand have already garnered worldwide attention.
Our recent expose showing that elephants are abused during the event may have led some to believe that this is a new campaign, but we’ve been trying to discuss the issue with Minor Hotel Group’s management for more than two years.
It appears that rather than carefully considering the opinions and concerns of countless people around the world, the Minor Hotel Group prefers to cling to its entrenched position.
What makes its intransigence even more puzzling is that the CEO and chair of Minor International, William Heinecke, likely cares about elephants, as he lived in Thailand for decades. Or perhaps the company is just following an ill-advised business model: caution over action.
There are animals everywhere who need help. PETA Asia and its international affiliates work to rescue and rehabilitate them every day, not just on World Animal Day – from cows to bears to chickens. And, of course, elephants.
The cruelty inflicted on elephants forced to play polo at the King’s Cup – subjecting them to continual beatings, forcing them to endure the sweltering heat, and leaving them chained in floodwaters – is deeply entrenched. But the Minor Hotel Group can put an end to it – after all, it created and continues to support the event, which perpetuates the abuse and exploitation of elephants for entertainment.
I’ve been travelling to Thailand for 20 years, and during that time, I’ve been happy to see a basic animal-welfare law put in place, but there’s still a long way to go. For example, when I filed a police report about the elephant beatings in the King’s Cup tournament, I was told that they were “standard” and so there was nothing to prosecute.
Even if laws don’t protect elephants, people will continue to oppose abusive practices, so the reality is that elephant polo – like other cruel activities – will soon be a thing of the past. The excuse that elephants must be used in order to bring in money so that humans can provide for their care is no longer valid (if it ever was).
Heinecke can stop the cruel King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament. Instead of underwriting the absurd event, his company could purchase land on which rescued elephants could live.
The sanctuary could be modelled after a successful one outside Sukhothai, and the company could take pride in making a real difference for elephants – those already in captivity and those who are at risk of being captured in order to supply the entertainment industry.
It’s Minor Hotel Group’s responsibility to stop making the use of elephants profitable, because as long as it is, these animals will continue to be smuggled into Myanmar and used for entertainment after having first been taken from their mothers in the wild and smuggled into China, a country that has fewer animal-welfare laws than Thailand, and used there.
People around the world continue to appeal to Heinecke with the message that enough is enough – they want the elephant abuse to stop. If he heeds their call on World Animal Day, what a phenomenal impact it will have on elephants, and what a legacy he will have created.
Jason Baker is PETA Asia’s vice president of international campaigns. For more information about the organisation’s work in Thailand and throughout Asia, visit PETAAsia.com.
Times comment:- We are totally behind this call to ban elephant polo and hope to see an end to it soon.
(Source:-The Nation, Thailand)