It is great to see the public outcry over an elephant that died in Cambodia after carrying tourists ("Elephant's death sparks petition to end tourist rides"; April 26).
Animal ownership in tourism and farming is the most socially accepted form of slavery in today's world. In the process, we ignore that animals evolved for their own purposes in nature and have their own lives and desires.
We should ask: What does it take to make an animal do something unnatural?
I volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.
There, I learnt about the breaking that baby elephants undergo. We often forget that even if elephants are treated with welfare when working, they still have to be broken to submit to human rules. This is true for all performance animals in places like zoos and circuses.
While there is a spectrum of what animals experience, the fundamental question we should ask is: Is working what is best for the animal, even if they are given food and rest? Or is it simply what's best for the person working them?
Is it our right to restrict their freedom, choose who they mate with and take away their offspring? This is not to mention that animals are often discarded when they are no longer able to be profitable.
While we should fight for animals to have better welfare, we should also fight to change the mindsets that allow animals to be exploited in the first place.