The Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is an Endangered wildlife species. Even though Elephants have been used in captivity from ancient times, it is no longer ethical nor is it necessary to keep these majestic animals enslaved to fulfil the needs of man. Elephants were once used in the timber and logging industry, even during the time of the British Raj in the construction of the railway system, however we now have machines which can do the job, in a much more efficient manner and so Elephants are no longer used in these industries.
Thanks to the rise of social media, information is now more available than ever before and we now know that it takes tremendous brutality on the part of us humans, to capture and "tame" elephants and turn them into captive animals. There are many videos of the "crushing" process which elephants are put through, to break their spirit and make them obey their mahout. However unlike other animals that are "domesticated&";, elephants always remain "wild" in many ways. Even when they are born in captivity, that’s what they are. All their wild instincts are intact and they display all the outward signs of captivity such as listless, unpredictable aggression and repetitive movement. Elephants are an extremely intelligent species and have psychological needs just like we humans do, they say that the Sri Lankan elephant is even more intelligent than their African counterparts. So how right is it then, do subject these majestic beasts of the wild, to the kind of pain and suffering they endure in captivity? As the most intelligent species on Earth, it is up to us humans to figure out right from wrong.
It is also unfortunate that Sri Lanka, the claimed "Cradle of Theravada Buddhism in the World" supports these kinds of archaic practices which bring such pain and suffering to the voiceless. We all know that the ultimate message in Buddhism is to " treat all living beings with compassion and loving kindness". There is simply no justification for the need to subject more and more elephants to this treatment.
Karaniya Metta Sutta:
Mātā yathā niyam puttam
Evampi sabba bhūtesu
"Just as a mother would protect her only child with her own life,
even so, let him cultivate boundless thoughts of loving kindness towards all beings"
This is what the Buddha taught. One can certainly agree that enslaving wild animals in temples, certainly goes against the Buddhist teaching in every way.
Whilst it is important to protect our history and culture, as sensible, intelligent human beings who follow the teachings of the Buddha, we must be wise.. and be able to differentiate between right and wrong.