Family of woman killed by tortured elephant calls for advertising ban | Nature | New

A performing elephant in Thailand (Image: GETTY)

Student nurse Andrea Taylor, 20, from Billinge, Merseyside, was gored to death in Thailand in 2000 after the animal charged at tourists during an obedience demonstration in a park.

But Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) has found at least 1,200 UK companies still promoting 277 sites overseas with the giants allegedly ‘torture robbed’ to do tricks, play games and go for walks .

Andrea’s sister Helen Costigan, who along with her father Geoff were seriously injured in the same tragic incident, has expressed anger over Britain’s lack of ad blocking.

She said: “A ban on the advertising of these tourist sites would go a long way to preventing visitors from learning about these places and preventing humans from profiting from animal abuse.

“The government’s delay and lack of interest in the ban endangers the lives of British tourists and allows abuses to continue.

“My sister died because of our lack of knowledge about the abuse and suffering faced by elephants in Thailand. Andrea Taylor’s life should not be in vain.”

Nursing student Andrea Taylor

Nursing student Andrea Taylor, (Picture: PA Pictures)

Helen, 46, based in Cheshire, added: “Over the past 20 years people have started to educate themselves and recognize that not all tourist attractions with animals benefit the lives of the animals involved.

“However, year after year, people fail to realize or are blind to the horrific abuses that animals such as elephants face when forced to interact with humans.”

Duncan McNair, chief executive of STAE, said these methods can involve isolation, deprivation of food, water and sleep, and beatings with rods or chains to break the animal’s spirit.

He said: “Ethical operators have for years broken promises of change. The end of advertising for these places is long overdue.

“In May 2021, the government proposed legislation ‘to ban the advertising and offering for sale here of specific and unacceptable practices abroad’.

“The ban would replace chaotic and failed self-regulation with the compulsion of the law, steering the market towards ethical sanctuaries where elephants are observed behaving naturally from a respectful distance, throwing a lifeline to the species.”

Papa Geoff and Helen at Andrea's investigation in 2001

Papa Geoff and Helen at Andrea’s investigation in 2001 (Picture: PA Pictures)

The Animals Abroad Bill sought to ensure that cruel animal practices abroad were not supported by the UK consumer market.

But the bill was dropped from this year’s Queen’s Speech. Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and House of Commons Leader Mark Spencer were blamed.

Mr McNair said: ‘Public support for change is over 90%. Support straddles the political divide. Why has the government stalled?’ He added: “The travel lobby is relentless.

“The majestic Asian elephant in its pain and peril cannot wait forever.

The ban is needed now.”

It is estimated that there are less than 45,000 Asian elephants alive today, 40% of which are kept in cruel captivity for exploitation. The government has said it remains committed to exploring options to ban advertising.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Animals that are part of tourist attractions are often subjected to cruel and brutal training practices. We urge UK tourists to choose to visit attractions and wellness experiences at the stranger.”


To provide tourist “attractions” across Southeast Asia, baby elephants are uprooted from the wild and protective mothers killed.

They are completely shattered by isolation, starvation and torture. Half die while the survivors are kept isolated and brutalized to perform rides, tricks and selfies.

Asian elephants’ sensitive backs are damaged by constant driving and heavy loads, their feet rot on hard concrete, while hot roads burn soft pads.

Stabbing and fierce binding cause sepsis. Isolation brings torment, exemplified by repetitive rocking and head movements. The work is often until death.

All of this threatens the species’ role as the “mega-gardener of the forests”, essential to stemming climate change.

Taunted elephants are deadly. STAE research reveals 716 tourists and others killed and 932 seriously injured. Student nurse at Nong Nooch resort in Thailand

Andrea Taylor was killed by an Asian elephant who was stabbed multiple times. His father and sister barely survived their injuries.

Years later, without security measures, this place is still promoted by 119 British companies.

Other dangers abound.

Stalled elephants transmit deadly airborne pathogens. Managers are ruthlessly exploited, helpless refugees tricked into providing more.

The horrors are hidden from the huge and growing UK market, with a third of Britons visiting Thailand before the pandemic saying they had or wanted to ride an elephant. Unethical operators have, for years, broken their promises of change. The end of advertising for these places is long overdue.

In May last year, the government pledged “to prohibit the advertising and sale here of specific and unacceptable practices abroad”. It would replace failing self-regulation.

Public support for change is over 90%. But Tory MPs, notably Jacob Rees-Mogg, have insisted the Tory way is ‘freedom of choice’.

Wiser counsel must prevail. The majestic Asian elephant in its pain and peril cannot wait forever.

  • Duncan McNair is founder and CEO of Save the Asian Elephants
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