I was recently sent to Sri Lanka for a work project, and my main plan was to visit the elephant sanctuary in Pinnawela.
I was told that there are wild elephants hanging out, many of them were orphaned by poaching and military action. This is true, and they’re fed from bottles and you can ride ’em (I didn’t), and they’ll have their picture taken with you, but the reason they do that stuff is because there are dudes poking them with big, nasty bullhooks.
I swiftly fell out of love with the concept. It’s a mixed bag- it’s tourist money that feeds these guys, and there’s the an old blind elephant being taken care of, and there’s an elephant who lost a foot in a landmine whocouldn’t survive in the wild. On the other hand, they’re just as penned in and abused as elephants in the circus. They also appear to have a breeding program going to generate the babies that tourists, myself included, love. Yes, you do get to pet a baby elephant for tips, which feels good, but dirty. I don’t know how much more for a lap dance, but you’re advised to have a very strong lap.
The first elephant I petted was this old blind man, with giant curvy tusks like a mammoth. He felt like a hairy handbag. After I petted him, an Australian lady took her turn and he bellowed and peed all over her. I said to my friend, Oh, I’m glad that wasn’t me. After he had a nice piss, he got an erection. Against my best judgment, I took, like, a million pictures of it. I’m not proud, but nor could I help myself.
Here we can see the ginger, bearded hipster outside his natural habitat of Billyburg, meeting an elephant while a prick holds a bullhook.
It’s not that the elephants weren’t beautiful, or that the babies weren’t adorable and the dusty navy of blueberries. They were.
For a vegan to drive three hours through the jungle to watch animals be abused is a real letdown.
They don’t have animal rights in Sri Lanka, they barely have human rights. Still and all, I felt like a giant asshole.