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.
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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.