Travel writer Julie Miller won the coveted Best Travel Writer award this week at the annual National Tourism Industry Awards gala event. Her winning story is an important one, about the treatment of Thailand’s much-loved elephants.
“Look an elephant in the eye, and you know you are in the presence of a sentient being. These wise, intelligent giants – a species that is known to be self-aware, can solve problems and mourns its dead – are particularly revered in their spiritual home of Thailand, and a pivotal element in that country’s history, culture and religion.”
Read the full story here.
We asked Julie why this subject was important to her, and why she thinks the message won her an award.
“People love elephants, and really want to see them and have an experience with them when they visit Thailand.
“After the logging industry ceased in the ‘80s, tourism was seen as the saviour for the elephants – but in the last 10 years, the awareness of animal welfare and the inappropriateness of using wild animals for entertainment has increased, and our idea of what’s ethical and kind to the elephants has evolved. It’s still a very contentious issue – after all, the elephants and their owners still need to eat, so the “ideal world” approach of happy animals running free isn’t that practical.
“There are, however, some fantastic people who have led the way for elephant welfare (people such as Lek from Elephant Nature Park, for instance) – and more and more elephants are now being placed into sanctuaries where they don’t have to work, carry people or be exploited for entertainment. It’s important for tourists to know where they can go to see elephants up close and have a meaningful interaction with them, yet still know they are contributing to the welfare of the animal and its happy future.”
Julie has also written a blog post about Thailand’s ethical encounters which, since it was first written two years ago, remains one of the most popular posts on the Hug Thailand blog.