Helping elephants in Thailand

For her birthday, all my friend Loreen wants is an elephant.

Last year, while visiting Thailand, Loreen discovered Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for abused elephants. She donated generously, a gift that her company matched, and she enabled ENP to build a shelter for their elephants.

This year, she’s aiming high. Instead of gifts, she’s asking all her friends to help her rescue another elephant at Elephant Nature Park by donating directly to ENP, or by donating to The Abraham Foundation, a U.S non-profit that supports ENP.

elephant c/o Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park and its founder Lek, are featured in the documentary film, How I became an Elephant. I was horrified to learn of the conditions of so many captive elephants in Thailand, and comforted to see Lek care for and give a refuge to survivors. In the film, she said she doesn’t buy elephants from people who will use the money to abuse more elephants. A position that I completely endorse. It does, however, take money to negotiate an elephant’s freedom and transport.

Lek offers elephants over 100 acres to roam, form natural groups, and for the first time ever, live without chains and set their own agendas. Amazingly, some of the rescued elephants have been reintroduced to the wild. Many others are too injured and worn out for life in the wild so Lek and her team offer medical care and the best quality of life possible.

In Thailand, elephants are forcibly impregnated and have their babies stolen from them. Babies are beaten “broken,” and forced to beg in busy cities at all hour of the day and night. They are malnourished and suffer greatly. Other elephants are used as beasts of burden in the illegal logging trade, even after injuries and blindness. Still others are used to give rides to tourists or perform tricks such as playing instruments, sports, or painting.

How to help

  • If you’re in the Seattle area, RSVP to Loreen’s fundraising birthday bash on October 24th, 2015.
  • Look at the Elephant Nature Park’s list of ways to help.
  • Donate to Elephant Nature Park at their site or, if you’re in the US and work for a company that matches donations, go through The Abraham Foundation, a 501(c)(3).
  • Never ride an elephant or pay to see captive elephants perform (dance, paint, or anything else). Even if the act itself looks harmless, the ways elephants are physically and emotionally abused to get them to learn tricks is abhorrent).
  • Volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park next time you’re in Thailand!
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Slaving for your seafood?

Human rights and animal rights are often interconnected. Animal rights is a social justice movement and its participants are often involved in helping people too.

The dirtiest jobs in the animal food industries are often done by people who are abused like the animals in the system. They’re undocumented workers, undereducated and lacking in resources or language skills and they can’t speak up for themselves and their situations.

Most of the time, people have the option of walking away–the animals don’t. So I feel for the animals, not the perpetrators. Sometimes, however, the dire situations people find themselves in, ties their hands too.

One example of this interconnectedness is in the fishing industry. In Thailand, men from neighboring countries are tricked into working on fishing ships. Of course I wish people wouldn’t entertain the idea of decimating the ocean for a paycheck, but I haven’t walked in their shoes. I don’t know the poverty they face. I don’t know about their struggles to feed their families. I can’t judge.

fishing boat

With over 25,000 legal fishing vessels in Thailand, and a vast ocean at their shores, the illegal boats easily blend in. Like any seedy underworld activity, they go unnoticed. Migrant workers can be bought for about $600, but their lives are worth even less.

The slaves on fishing ships are smuggled from nearby countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, with the promise of a good job. Once on the ships, they’re overworked, denied pay, beaten and sometimes even killed.

It goes on because the money is lucrative, because the demand for cheap fish is high, and authorities don’t prosecute. Victims who escape and speak up are often punished.

Thailand is the second largest importer of seafood to the USA. It’s going to take consumers to stop slavery. We need to take a stand and say no to an industry that is relentlessly cruel to the environment, animals and people.

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