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Vegan, activist and actor Evanna Lynch, best known for her portrayal of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter film series, is urging the public to boycott elephant rides.

After an invitation by charity Save The Asian Elephants (STAE), Lynch journeyed to India with news publication The Sun to raise awareness about the cruelty of the animal entertainment industry.

More than 850,000 people from the UK visit India every year. Many participate in the animal tourist attraction “without realising the true horror of captivity for these intelligent creatures when we pay to ride them or take a selfie,” the publication wrote.

Lynch admitted, “Just a few years ago I dreamed of going to India and riding an elephant. But then I couldn’t have imagined the abuse the elephants suffer.”

“Now I know, and I think everyone else needs to see this and know too.”

The publication described the conditions in which the large mammals are kept. Many are “desperately thirsty” and “standing in the fierce heat” with chains wrapped around their bodies. The animals are frequently “beaten, starved and caged,” according to The Sun. The beatings result in “gaping wounds” on the animals’ bodies, however, the trainers simply paint the wounds grey to cover the injuries from tourists.

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Of the experience, Lynch said: “I have been so shocked. We saw one elephant chained up – it couldn’t move at all.”

“It had a stick resting on its head so if it moved the stick would fall. If it did the trainer would give it a beating.”

She continued, “I asked the man standing there how long the elephant might have been there, and he told me probably his whole life. That is unfathomable.”

The Sun explained that in India, elephants are “snatched from their mothers in the wild when they are babies.” The young animals are then “tortured into complete submission in a process called ‘pajan.’” The baby elephants are kept in cages so small the animal cannot move – “not even to turn around, not its head or sit down.”

The publication said, “Trainers then starve the animal and keep it awake for days on end.”

“Exhausted and on the brink of death, the elephants are then beaten with wooden weapons, specially designed to inflict as much pain as possible. This happens every day for at least six months, but can go on for years.” This occurs until their spirit is “so broken” that the animals finally let their trainers ride them, The Sun explained.

Almost half of the animals die from the treatment, and of those who survive the “training,” one in ten elephants die within a year due to stress.

After investigating a training camp whereby The Sun and Lynch saw first-hand the “appalling” conditions, they questioned their guide as to whether this is how all elephants are trained, or if some are tamed “more humanely.” The guide responded: “This is every single tourist elephant’s fate. The only reason they obey is with fear. They have been broken.”

Duncan McNair, founder of STAE, told the Sun: “Elephants are some of the most intelligent, emotional creatures in the world and the abuse they suffer is unimaginable.” Through increasing public awareness and exerting pressure on governments to rework legislation, STAE strives to “end the terrible cruelty and brutal conditions suffered by this wondrous and ancient species,” its website says. 

Lynch said: “When people who have ridden elephants in the past or visited these places see this article, I don’t want them to feel guilty — they were misled by the irresponsible tourist industry.”

“What we need to do is to put that guilt into action and not visit these places in future.”

She added: “I’d read a lot about the abuse elephants suffer but seeing it up close has given me the ability to speak from my heart and tell others that we can make a change by not spending our money and posting these tourist images.”

Those interested can learn more about Save The Asian Elephants online.


Image Credit: Evanna Lynch