International animal charity World Animal Protection is demanding that travel companies end abusive elephant rides and shows.
The conservation group estimated that approximately 3,000 elephants are suffering in captivity in cruel entertainment venues across Asia and Southern Africa.
Taken from their mothers when young, baby elephants are isolated, starved and beaten until their spirits are broken in a barbaric training method known as “the crush”, according to World Animal Protection.
It says that 63 travel companies across the world have stopped selling elephant rides and shows following World Animal Protection approaches.
They include The Travel Corporation, which includes Contiki Holidays and Trafalgar, and G Adventures.
Thomas Cook has committed to stop selling elephant rides and shows from the start of winter season in northern Europe markets.
“Whilst this is welcome, it is a further sign that The Thomas Cook Group’s position towards animal welfare is contradictory,” the charity claimed.
World Animal Protection director of wildlife, Kate Nustedt, said: “We are shocked that a household name like Thomas Cook is behind the curve on animal welfare and appears unwilling to end the promotion of cruel elephant rides in all its markets.
“Thomas Cook is the oldest and best known name in travel dating back to 1841. Over 22 million customers choose to travel with them each year, with sales of over £8.5 billion, demonstrating the importance they could play in stopping the promotion of elephant rides.
“We’d welcome the chance to work with Thomas Cook on solutions that not only put a stop to cruel elephant rides and shows, but also ensure that tourists can enjoy seeing elephants in the wild.”
A spokesman for Thomas Cook Group said: "Thomas Cook Group is not selling elephant rides or shows in any of its markets.
“We are surprised to learn of the accusations made by World Animal Protection against Thomas Cook Group as we have been in talks with the Charity and believed they were aware of our responsible animal welfare policy
“Thomas Cook Group stopped offering elephant excursions to our UK and northern European customers some time ago, and our businesses on the Continent, including Germany, have also removed elephant excursions from their programmes.
“Although some excursion details featured in earlier printed brochures, we can confirm that these trips are no longer available to customers.”
The spokesman added: “We are proud to be an industry leader in animal welfare, having been instrumental in the development of the Abta animal welfare guidelines for suppliers of excursions involving animals, and an accompanying checklist which allows tour operators to assess suppliers.
“We continue to work closely with industry partners and NGOs to improve animal welfare and we are currently planning an audit programme with external auditors to ensure we meet our own standards as well as those set by Abta.
“We would encourage World Animal Protection to deal with tour operators as responsible partners.”
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