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Mahouts rest as their elephants eat fruit in Chiang Mai. Credit: The Antlantic

While Western activists focus on the animals, their handlers are often treated as expendable.

Mahouts today are caught in a catch-22. Tourists have come to believe that traditional tools like chains and bullhooks are inherently unethical, but still want to be able to have up-close-and-personal interactions with elephants. “I use a bullhook because some elephants we cannot control with our hands,” one mahout explained. “Humans are small. Elephants spook easily and are dangerous. If elephants get scared, they kill people.”

“By working with mahouts to improve their treatment of elephants while also acknowledging the difficult lives mahouts often live themselves, we can positively impact the captive elephant situation as a whole. Criticizing a culture that is not your own does not help change it.”

There are many more aspects to consider that outsiders tend to forget when thinking about elephant welfare. Read the full article to see things from a different perspective considering culture, habitat, and elephant welfare.

By Hilary Cadigan for The Atlantic.

 

 

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