Why can’t we go see the elephants?

After hearing this question throughout our trip to Thailand I finally thought long and hard about why we can’t go to see the elephants. For decades I have avoided taking my kids to the circus, animal shows, or some zoos because I was against seeing animals exploited for entertainment purposes. I just could not see past the animal’s eyes when they are subjected to doing tricks simply for our pleasure and amusement. Mostly, seeing the gigantic elephants in their little spaces whipped until they can stand on those little stools with their hind legs really got me to think….Animals weren’t born to amuse us, why should I pay money to go see an elephant stand on a stool or play soccer?

Remember that incident in Hawaii when a circus elephant went on a rampage and ran loose in the streets running over cars and people? Quietly, I was rooting for the elephant. Run little guy… go get lost in the woods where they will never find you!!! Run, run, run!!! We all know how that situation ended. He was shot dead! “Sorry folks, we plucked him from his mother’s womb so that he can make you laugh; now we had to shoot him because he went wild on us.” (Can’t imagine how that could happen.) And to my shocking amazement to hear that peta.com (people for the ethical treatment of animals) even has a campaign to boycott Thailand because of the “Phaajaan” ritual. I’ve seen the ritual and boy, I pray that in the next life I do not come back as an elephant. And what about all of the stories in the newspaper about the bad mahouts? I have to do my part and refuse to contribute to the cruelty of these animals by signing petitions to help them, boycotting the circus, and avoiding the zoos etc…. All of this compelling evidence and strong viewpoint and my kids still wanted to see the darn elephants. The kids are always whining…. “it’s not fair you got to see them, I want to ride the elephants like you did when you were little in that picture; I want to feed them bananas and sugar cane”. WHY CAN’T WE GO TO SEE THE ELEPHANTS!! You see, it was easier when they were little. Now that they have their own thoughts and feelings I can’t make it go away by distracting them or bribing them.

So now I’m faced with this dilemma, should I squash my feelings and take my kids to see the elephants? What can one little family prove by boycotting the zoo or the circus? I explained this to my dad. My dad suggested that all I can do is instill them with the feelings I have for the animals, inform them of the viewpoints and let them make their own decision. “You can’t deprive your kids of seeing these creatures close-up, they won’t be able to make up their minds by just looking at pictures from a book or scenes of a video. Look how strongly you felt about the animals when you saw them close-up. Let them see it with their own eyes. Besides, there’s not many places in the world where you can reach out and touch an elephant.” Isn’t it amazing that dads can say the right things at the right time? DuHHH! Fine, we will go see the elephants! So, we set off to the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. As you can see from Jasmine’s first impression of a lively creature taking a bath… I’m thinking that she thought elephants weren’t supposed to be so life-sized!

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