My good friend Marcus, whose opinion I always respect, left this comment on my Maesa Elephant Camp post that I felt I should share. Though I can say I didn't witness any harsh treatment at the Maesa camp, and didn't see any of the mahouts carrying metal spikes, I have seen it at other elephants camps in Thailand and was disgusted.
You are right, there is no kind way to train an elephant. In fact, any elephant that has been trained is a victim of horrible abuse.
To instill fear of humans in an elephant, they are taken from their mothers at birth and subject to beatings by humans - for days.
The cruelty continues throughout their lives.
Not just the metal spikes slammed into their heads by the mahouts, but their way of life.
You've been in a forest right, and experienced the peace and quiet, the shade and texture.
That is where elephants should be, in large extended family groups, grazing all day long. Instead, they are made to "paint" and do other degrading tricks for human entertainment.
There is no such thing as kind treatment for elephants in Thailand, or anywhere in captivity.
Please, I beg you for the sake of the elephants, please do not encourage people to see such barbarism carried out.
Animals are not ours to breed for entertainment (and these poor animals are bred and abused just for that) and as Buddhists surely we must be aware that these animals also wish to avoid this pain, and we do not condone their abuse and ill-treatment.