Elephant riding in Thailand

Global petition to outlaw cruel captive breeding of elephants for tourism in Thailand

Press release

World Animal Protection will today [Monday 27 May 2024] hand to the Prime Minister of Thailand a petition signed by over 172,000 concerned global citizens demanding his government commits to end the exploitation of elephants in the country’s tourism industry.

Representatives from the charity will deliver the petition to the Office of the Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin and call upon him and his lawmakers stop delaying the draft Elephant Protection Bill that is before parliament.  

Every year, thousands of elephants are subjected to cruel handling and training methods which force them to perform elephant rides, bathing and other out-dated ‘circus’ performances for unsuspecting, fee-paying tourists.  

World Animal Protection Thailand led the drafting of the legislation, working with politicians, government legal experts, academics, NGOs and the Thai public to create a workable law which seeks to end captive elephant breeding for commercial purposes. 

The Elephant Protection Bill received support from Thai voters in 2022, leading to its introduction into the legislative process – but it is still waiting for approval from Prime Minister Thavisin.  

World Animal Protection Thailand’s Wildlife Campaign Manager, Hatai Limprayoonyong said:  

We are taking the overwhelming international support - including over 60,000 signatures from within Thailand - to impress upon the Prime Minister and other senior ministers that they must listen to the will of the global community and enact the Elephant Protection Bill to start phasing out this cruel industry. 

The government must seize this opportunity to restore Thailand’s reputation as a compassionate tourist destination and make this the last generation of elephants to endure the cruelty of commercial exploitation.

Elephants are Thailand’s national animal and considered sacred in Buddhist iconography. They are revered for their intelligence and social complexity.  Yet many of these iconic animals endure a life of exploitation and cruelty.  

Bred in captivity for commercial entertainment, thousands of Asian elephants - who can live for 70 years – are separated from their mothers at an early age, and are often chained and forced into brutal training programmes in facilities with inadequate living conditions and poor welfare records.  

They are then forced to undertake unnatural and stressful interactions with tourists.       

Studies have shown elephants can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the abuse they suffer can lead to behaviours that also endanger the elephants' handlers, the public and tourists - sometimes fatally. 

Thavisin’s approval is crucial for it to successfully pass through parliament. Once enshrined in the statute books, a dedicated committee will be appointed to oversee the law, marking a significant stride in safeguarding captive elephants in Thailand.  

World Animal Protection’s Wildlife Campaign lead Eugenia Morales said:

As the international petition clearly shows, we now have a global momentum the Thai government cannot ignore.  It must prioritize the welfare of elephants. But we cannot afford to relax. Advancing the Elephant Protection Bill drafted by World Animal Protection requires sustained pressure and support from both the industry and the public.

New research released last month by World Animal Protection - Bred for profit: The truth about global wildlife farming revealed an estimated 5.5 billion wild animals are being kept in cruel conditions on commercial wildlife farms worldwide. 

World Animal Protection is urging other governments to phase out commercial wildlife farms and associated trades. In addition, the charity is calling for increased support for alternative livelihoods for those communities currently involved in the wildlife farming industry, to ensure a just transition away from these harmful practices.

Notes to Editors:  

For more information and to arrange interviews please contact:

  • Global Media Manager, Peter Simpson
  • Tel; +44 (0) 7803 051 848.
  • Email: petersimpson@worldanimalprotection.org  

About World Animal Protection   

World Animal Protection is the global voice for animal welfare, with more than 70 years’ experience campaigning for a world where animals live free from cruelty and suffering.   

We have offices in 12 countries and work across 47 countries. We collaborate with local communities, the private sector, civil society and governments to change animals’ lives for the better.   Our goal is to change the way the world works to end animal cruelty and suffering for both wild and farmed animals. Through our global food system strategy, we will end factory farming and create a humane and sustainable food system, which puts animals first. By transforming the broken systems that fuel exploitation and commodification, we will give wild animals the right to a wildlife. Our work to protect animals will play a vital role in solving the climate emergency, the public health crisis and the devastation of natural habitats.    

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