Thailand and Vietnam hold the record for the most cases of mistreatment of zoo animals in Asia. An exposé was released by PETA Asia showing a baby elephant being abused and stabbed to make it perform and disturbing tricks. Other animals were also abused. The employees hit crocodiles with bamboo sticks and wailing tigers were harassed into letting tourists take pictures with them. This happened in Thailand’s Samutprakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo. The elephants were chained to the walls and stored in a room with concrete floors which cause them to develop joint problems. They often swayed from side to side, a sign of serious mental distress.
In Thailand’s Tiger Park, people pay to get pictures with isolated baby cubs. When baby tigers are taken from the wild, their parents are usually killed in the process. Imagine having to endure that heartache just for a simple, unnecessary photo.
Vietnam’s animal tourism industry is deeply ingrained in its economy, making it a more complicated issue. According to Dave Neale, an Animal Welfare Director:
“Vietnam’s animal cruelty problem isn’t purely domestic. It is a global business and a lot of the customers are foreigners behaving badly abroad. But the ultimate responsibility must fall on Vietnam for allowing their country to become an animal cruelty playground.”
Footage from Orchid Island, a popular Vietnamese attraction, surfaced online depicting a little boy happily posing for a picture with a baby moon bear while it wears a leather mask and leather gloves. Moon bears are a protected species under the Vietnamese Law and should not be subjected to mistreatment.
They Deserve Better: What Can We Do?
Thailand is taking conducive steps in improving conditions for its elephants. The Thai government has arranged for a database that strengthens the regulations and policing of its border with Myanmar— where most of Thailand’s elephants come from.
As people, we sometimes have little control over the large and inhumane facets of the world. But we have more command than we think. First and foremost, paying to see and engage in these acts support the abuse. There is no ethical reason that these animals be bothered by the frivolous desires of man. We can fight the problem by steering clear of elephants unless they are in the wild or a nature reserve.