Ethical Travel – the awareness of our impact as we explore the world
In 2014 David and I made the difficult, but principled, decision to focus on ethical travel, and stop working with clients and suppliers that insisted on taking part in inhumane animal interactions, such as the infamous elephant back safaris in Thailand.
Over the last 6 years we have endeavoured to find and support people and organisations that have successfully brought about change to this terrible industry. All these years later it has become clear to us that the tide is turning and this morning’s visit to an ethical elephant sanctuary has gone a long way in restoring my faith in humanity. Our new partners have been on a great journey over the last 5 years, moving away from anything to do with elephant riding and ‘entertaining’ and working to ensure that their elephants come first (whilst still enabling a sustainable life for their mahouts to ensure that the cycle of inhumane treatment and work stops).
This experience provides a great opportunity to learn about the role of elephants in Thai culture and communities and how their future in Thailand is intertwined with people and the mahouts who look after them. It is important for westerners to understand that Elephants have been part of the local culture for centuries and that it is only through sustainable practices and education that change can be made. Rescued from the Burmese logging trade and from the Thai ‘circus entertainment’ industry the incredible creatures we met today roam free in their new home and determine the schedule that the excursion follows… when they want to eat, they eat and when they want to swim, they swim. In the greater scheme these sanctuaries shouldn’t be needed and animals should only be seen in the wild – we are intrinsically aware of this – but until such time as animals like these aren’t woven through the fabric of these cultures, our visits to places like this enable the sanctuary caretakers to provide important food and healthcare for these incredible animals, who are unable to be reintroduced back into the wild. In turn, these magnificent and emotive beings provide an experience that teaches us to be cognisant of the burden of responsibility that we as humans have to all living beings and to continue our fight for change.
Related Itinerary: The Ultimate Northern Thailand Explorer – 10 nights Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Mae Wang, Samoeng, Pai and Chiang Mai
Additional Reading: Why Elephant Riding Should Be Removed from Your List