The Cruel and Sadistic Tradition of Breaking a Young Elephant’s Spirit

In Thailand and India the villagers believe that in order for an elephant to be tame and suitable for work, it must go through a religious process called Phajaan. In this article I will go through the traditional Phajaan process. If you get easily disturbed by animal cruelty you may not want to read on.

The ordeal begins when an unsuspecting elephant calf stumbles upon an Indian or Thailand village.  As soon as its spotted the villagers chase the already nervous and confused little elephant into a makeshift wooden cage.  The cages used are so small that the elephant within can barely move.  However this tiny piece of freedom is taken away as the villagers tie the elephant’s legs together and chain it down.

Above:  A baby elephant screaming for it’s mother as someone drives a spike into it’s sensitive inner ear.

Once the elephant calf in firmly restrained the village’s spiritual leader climbs onto it’s back and proceeds to drive a spike into it’s head.  He/she then says a traditional prayer, which means “Elephant, if you stop struggling then we won’t hurt you”.  

Above:  Four year old elephant calf in unbearable agony as a spike is driven into her skill.

The act of violence preformed by the spiritual leader is only the beginning for the petrified little elephant.  For the next three to six days the villagers take turns at driving nails and other nasty objects into the elephant’s sensitive spots, as well as pelting it with stones and beating it with clubs.  It is allowed no water, food or sleep during this time.

Above:  Expression on an elephant’s face as she is sadistically tortured.

During the silent nights, evenings and mornings that fall upon the village, the only sounds that can be heard are from the tortured elephant.  It bellows in agony, desperately trumpets for help, even screaming and crying for it’s mother as a human child would.  The villagers laugh and jeer as the young elephant suffers from uncontrollable diarrhea – No doubt caused by the suffering it is enduring.

Above:  A petrified little elephant shitting itself in terror.

It is a constant struggle for the elephant calf to remain standing.  It’s legs are tied together, and the ground is quite slippery:  Covered in the elephant’s own blood, urine and feces.  If failing to stand up straight, the punishment is swift and brutal.

Eventually this torture and deprivation breaks the young elephant’s spirit, and supposedly breaks the bond between it and it’s mother.  The spiritual leaders can apparently sense when an elephant’s spirit has changed (broken), and when this happens, the elephant is released.  Not all of the elephants put through this ordeal survive however, as those with the stronger spirits die from torture, thirst and starvation.

Above:  A wounded, exhausted and terrified baby elephant after several days of torture with no food or water.

Once released, the elephant is fed, washed and allowed to drink by the villagers.  It is still tied up of course, but only something like one leg chained to a tree.  After/if the little elephant recovers the gruelling training process begins – Which is only marginally better than what is just went through.  It will still be beaten, chained and deprived of it’s natural needs for the rest of it’s working life.

This was not an isolated event.  Every single elephant that has been used for the circus, for street preforming or for labour such as logging has suffered at least a variation of what I described above.  This is the only way that elephants can be trained to do exactly what humans want on cue.  The only way to end it is to stop using elephants.


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21 Responses to “The Cruel and Sadistic Tradition of Breaking a Young Elephant’s Spirit”
  1. Wherner5 Says...

    On August 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    This is really horrible, and there must be some humane way to treat and break elephants without beating them. Shows are great, but the torture isn’t.

  2. FixItDuck Says...

    On August 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    @Wherner5: It is possible to tame elephants without breaking them, through positive reinforcement instead of negative. So instead of beating it for doing something wrong, reward it when it does something right. The problem with this though is that the elephant won’t be afraid of their trainer, so they won’t preform on cue when the humans want them to. They’ll preform on THEIR terms.

    The tricks elephants do in circuses aren’t natural, and its actually painful to them. I reckon we shouldn’t use elephants for shows at all. If you really like elephants it is possible to visit them in a more natural environment, at an elephant sanctuary.

  3. Nman3n Says...

    On August 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    so who cares its just a dumb elephant?? i’d beat the crap out of those litle shits if I found them in MY village. Id smear its own diareha in its face lol itd be crackup

  4. Johhnnyjohnjohn Says...

    On August 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Fucking aisans!! its all their fault…

  5. AshlyParry Says...

    On August 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    @ Nman3n: Can’t express my comment in words

  6. FixItDuck Says...

    On August 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    @Nman3n: -_-

    @Johhnnyjohnjohn: Yeah pretty much!

    @AshlyParry: Nman3n is just a troll…

  7. Matt12 Says...

    On August 15, 2011 at 12:39 am

    I don’t think the elephant minds that much…

  8. Josie Says...

    On August 15, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Ringling circus in America does this too, in ’secret’! If you haven’t already visit this site:

  9. Zspy Says...

    On September 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Nman3n – Go fuck yourself

  10. Carolyn Dickenson Says...

    On March 1, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Nman3n – Elephants are not dumb excuse me. But there are some very dumb and evil people who I guess would get a laugh out of the abuse. Try a bit of shit rubbed on your own face and might improve your looks

  11. Carol Archer Says...

    On March 3, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I am most distressed by this treatment done to such wonderful creatures. They are by no means dumb, and Aston a previous comment, words fail me. In this day and age one could even think such a thing let alone putting his/her thoughts, beggars belief.

  12. Tory Says...

    On July 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    You can join us on Fb on Save Queenie Save Elephants Page to advocate against this barbaric practice.

  13. patricia Says...

    On July 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    There is no other way to train an elephant than this way. Elephants are not domesticated like the horse or dog. They do NOT respond to a “treat” in training.The circus and zoos use bull hooks and electric shock. These mammals should never be in captivity. There is no other animal that suffers like this when captive. It is 2012, come on people, enough of this.

  14. Annie Arnaudon Says...

    On July 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Nman3n, you are a pathetic excuse for a human being. You probably go around abusing all animals if you can think and say this. Unfortunately imbisiles like you dont ever stop at animal abuse, they go on to abuse people too. You need to educate yourself a whole lot more and open your eyes before making such crude and pathetic statements.
    This is cruel and sadistic, and should be banned and outlawed.

  15. Annie Arnaudon Says...

    On July 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Patricia, Elephant DO respond to a treat. There is other ways to training them. Educate yourself and read up about Elephants. This way is wrong on so many levels.

  16. Annie Arnaudon Says...

    On July 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Patricia, Elephants DO respond to a treat. There ARE other ways to training them. Educate yourself and read up about Elephants. This way is wrong on so many levels.

  17. patricia Says...

    On July 21, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Actually,I do know elephants quite well. Of course they like treats and sure, they will what they want to do. Try to get an elephant to stand on a tub, get up on its hind legs and all the ridiculous things circuses train them to do..with a treat. Never would happen, ever. Pain is the only way to get them to do things that are completely unnatural and every \”trick\” is unnatural. I have read up on and have a life of hands on experiences with elephants. Obviously, you do not

  18. PachyDerm Says...

    On July 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    No more elephant “training.” Period.

  19. Guests Says...

    On August 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    The problem remains at large; humans. We use animals for income, hence, they are ‘working animals’. I love elephants, they are my favourite but horses and thousand of animals, even birds provide income for humans through rides, photogrpahy, shows etc. But elephants MUST be tortured before training unlike dogs or just a fierce stance with tigers… I think being knowledgable and spreading it and boycotting is the easiest way but powerful too to help these animals especially the elephants as they are the key tool for the tourism industry; rides, paintings, shows etc. Visit elephant hospitals, sanctuaries – places that promote the natural elephant environment and you get the natural elephant behaviour, isn’t it so much more than seeing them working in constant pain. They should be free and living in wild…The Asian Elephants are declining more than their African cousin’s. So if you’re not donating or don’t know where to start, boycott the usage of working animals.

  20. Kathy Papineau Says...

    On September 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

    This sickening abuse needs to be stopped!

  21. Imran khan Says...

    On October 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Hey Lord! Why did u send me in this cruel and inhumane world?I can’t stop crying. Pls punish those bustards.And the next time u create this world,create a separate world for this lovely animals too where they can live in peace.

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