In a hard-earned victory for relentless animal advocates, the United Kingdom is moving to ban tourism advertisements for venues that promote elephant torture.

The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs said the advertisement ban would apply to tourist venues that promote all forms of cruelty for endangered Asian elephants, including elephant rides, washings, tricks, and other forms of direct interaction with human visitors, according to the  Telegraph.

Duncan McNair, an attorney and founder of London-based nonprofit Save The Asian Elephants (STAE), has been fighting for the ban for years. McNair said people often aren’t aware of the brutal treatment — from beatings with bullhooks to stabbings and blindings — that elephants endure to become “tame” enough for commercial exploitation in tourism.

“Elephants are wild animals,” McNair told Lady Freethinker. “If they allow you to walk up to them and pet them, or hop on their backs, those animals have been brutalized.”

The process — known as phajaan or pajan — translates to “breaking of the spirit” and has been increasingly denounced, including by the UK Prime Minister’s fiancée.

The World Animal Protection Organization estimates that more than 3,000 Asian elephants are suffering at tourist attractions throughout the world. McNair estimates that number is actually much higher — with 6,000 to 8,000 of the more than 15,000 Asian elephants in captivity being used for tourism today —  while fewer than 30,000 Asian elephants are left in the wild.

STAE drafted the ban on advertising venues that promote elephant cruelty and also started a petition, which since has garnered more than 1 million signatures of support worldwide.

McNair said he’ll be watching closely to ensure the ban is enacted and enforced.

“We have come a long, long way, and hope desperately that the government does what it says it will do,” he told Lady Freethinker. “This action has come in part from an enormous show of public support, which is necessary to create legislative change.”

The effort also doesn’t stop at the UK’s borders, McNair said.

“The United States now becomes absolutely critical in what happens  next,” he said. “We believe strongly that it could, itself, introduce such legislation.”


  1. Sign Save The Asian Elephant’s petition and ask the British government to support the proposed ban on tourist agencies’ advertisement of venues that promote animal cruelty. 
  2. Write to your lawmakers and educate them about elephant cruelty issues. STAE has letter templates available on its website that can easily be modified to fit your country. 
  3. Don’t support elephant cruelty. Do your research and be wary of any “sanctuaries” that offer close contact with wild elephants. McNair said these are some of the worst: Chitwan National Park, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and Sanctuary, Pattaya Elephant Village, Sriracha Tiger Zoo, Kodanad Elephant Training Centre, Punnathur Kotta Elephant Sanctuary, Guruvayur Elephant Camp, and Nong Nooch Village Park. 
  4. Get educated. Visit STAE’s website for recent news and action alerts.

5. Get involved. STAE greatly welcomes new volunteers, many of whom work remotely and tirelessly for the cause by researching, writing articles, organizing information archives, or helping out with social media and outreach. Email [email protected] for more information.