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Until recently, the UK planned to ban tourist advertisements linked to the brutal mistreatment of elephants, which are particularly at risk Asian Elephants. But senior Tories – apparently Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and House of Commons Leader Mark Spencer in particular – have managed to block legislation which would give the ban.
They apparently believe that this decision would be “unconservative” – apparently because it would be limit people’s freedom enjoy the fruits of other animals’ agony. But recent attempts to force these conservatives to explain or defend their so-called “conservative values” have remained unanswered.
Now they are facing calls to make it clear whether they are “collaborating” with tourism businesses. An upcoming oral question in the House of Lords will also pressure the government to go ahead with the ban.
Tortured for tourism
As The Canary previously pointed out, many elephants used in tourism undergo a training process called pajan. It basically involves torturing elephants into obedience at a young age to engage in unnatural behaviors like allowing people to ride on their backs. This training process may involve beating, crushing and starving elephants, to name just a few of the horrors, in order to master their natural minds. If they survive the pajan, their fear-induced obedience can also be maintained throughout their working lives, for example through the use of a hook. This is a weapon with which mahouts (guardians) poke the sensitive parts of elephants – such as behind their ears – to keep them compliant.
Thanks to the efforts of NGOs like Save the Asian Elephants (STAE) and others, Parliament was well on its way to addressing UK complicity in these abuses. According to STAE, 1,200 companies operating in the UK tourism market advertise places implicated in brutality against elephants. The Animals Abroad Bill contained a promise to ban their advertising for such unethical tourism.
The government now seems to have put this bill on hold. He says he is committed to moving forward with some of its provisions, such as banning the import of body parts from trophy hunting. But the government has not confirmed whether it plans to advance a ban on unethical tourist advertising.
As the Independent reported, STAE CEO Duncan McNair wrote to Rees-Mogg and Spencer about their reported role in the U-turn. In the letter, McNair challenged the two politicians to publicly debate the issue in their constituencies and join STAE on a fact-finding mission to elephant tourism sites.
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None of them accepted McNair’s proposals. The Cabinet Office told him that Rees-Mogg had “journal pressures”. Meanwhile, a source close to Spencer suggested to the Independent that he is unlikely to engage at all on the issue.
In comments to The CanaryMcNair said:
Tory colleagues may have no idea of the serious damage that Mr Mogg and Mr Spencer have been blocking their government’s promises to ban publicity of tourism brutality to endangered Asian elephants and their babies will take on the species. They persuaded the Prime Minister to drop promised measures like ‘Un-Tory’ and that animal welfare is not a priority.
explain whether they work with the 1,200 UK travel agencies that profit from advertising nearly 300 of the most brutal elephant ‘attractions’ overseas.
The Canary contacted the Cabinet Office for comment. None were provided at the time of publication.
The STAE CEO accused Rees-Mogg of “causing havoc” with the “huge strides” made to protect endangered Asian elephants. STAE’s involvement in that progress has included drafting an advertising ban bill, which McNair says the government asked him to do in 2019. That bill, titled Bill on Asian elephants (tourism), would stop advertising attractions involving Asian elephants unless they are true sanctuaries.
McNair says STAE is in talks with opposition parties on this and is “making progress”. He added that the organization:
still hopes the government will deliver on its promise to help prevent tourist torture of elephants, which a large number of Tory MPs as well as the vast majority of Tory voters (and others) strongly support
According to McNair, on June 20 Labor Baroness Hayman of Ullock will also ask the government in the House of Lords whether it intends to introduce a ban. McNair expects other opposition parties to table other questions as well.
It is now
During the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, some elephants used for tourism have brief respite. Their owners released them into sanctuaries that offered to take them in through adoption and placement programs. Now that the tourism industry is reopening, however, the elephants risk being returned to servitude – and all the horrors that go with it. McNair said The Canary:
As unregulated and unforgiving elephant tourism markets reopen, God help Asian elephants in their pain and peril.
Now is exactly the right time to implement a ban and limit UK complicity in what these elephants are facing. But it seems some odious Conservative “values” are getting in the way.
Image selected via Sky News / YouTube
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