Elephant polo has effectively come to an end in Thailand after an undercover animal cruelty investigation revealed the vicious abuse rampant in the sport.
Following the release of footage captured by investigations from PETA Asia, a branch of international animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), major sponsors of the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament withdrew their support. The exposé of last year’s tournament showed handlers viciously beating captive elephants with bullhooks – a sharp device also used by many circus trainers – and pulling on the animals’ sensitive ears. Some elephants were beaten to the point of bleeding and investigators found that one elephant was left chained in standing water.
The Thailand Elephant Polo Association, the organization behind the exploitative event, has ceased operations, effectively creating an end to the cruel sport.
“No one with any decency or compassion wants elephants to be beaten bloody and forced to play polo, give rides, or perform stupid tricks,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “PETA is pleased that this abusive spectacle is now history, and we’re committed to ensuring that all other animal-exploiting stunts disappear, too.”
PETA notes that the news of an end to the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament creates an effective end to the sport in Thailand. The news follows shortly after IBM withdrew itself as a sponsor from the Bangkok-based event. After reviewing the footage and receiving nearly 200,000 messages from concerned individuals, IBM cut ties with the Thai Elephant Polo Association.
Other businesses that withdrew as sponsors include Vespa, the Campari Group, Ecolab, Angus Energy, and Banfi Vinters.
While there is no information on what will happen to the captive elephants, there are sanctuaries and rescues throughout Thailand. Elephant Nature Park, Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary, and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Elephant Refuge are all dedicated to providing endangered Asian elephants who lost their homes or have been exposed to abuse at the hands of humans with a safe place to live.
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