Animal welfare is increasingly top of mind for modern travelers not wanting to see their tourism dollars used for exploitative profit. In Southeast Asia, elephant riding has taken center stage. Reports of “elephant breaking,” the violent process of taming and domesticating an elephant for commercial use, made their way to the public eye in 2014 following research conducted by World Animal Protection and other welfare agencies, prompting international outcry from the mainstream media, travel sites, and even some tour operators, including Intrepid Travel.
Intrepid removed elephant rides from its roster of tours in 2014, joining and inspiring over 200 businesses that have done the same. Prior to 2014, Intrepid included elephant rides on certain tours in Thailand but stopped doing so after a report from the WAF. Co-founder Geoff Manchester speaks to why his views on elephant riding have changed over time and what inspired the brand to take a firm stance against the activity.