Victim’s family pleas for ‘change in animal law from brutal to ethical’

Victim’s family pleas for ‘change in animal law from brutal to ethical’


The sister of a woman gored to death by an elephant is urging Parliament to ban adverts for holidays where the giant animals are “abused” to entertain tourists.

Helen Costigan has spoken out as the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill is due to return to the House of Lords tomorrow.

She wants politicians to help turn the tourism market in this area from being “brutal and ruthless” to ethical with a ban on promoting holiday venues where animals are forced to perform tricks and give rides.

The Bill applies to England and Northern Ireland. Handlers are said to train the elephants using a process called Pajan – the “breaking of their spirits” – in order to make them obey.

The charity Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) has said the tormented captive creatures have killed 700 people worldwide in a “generation”.

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In 2000, Helen’s sister, student nurse Andrea Taylor, 20, died at a park in Thailand when a bull elephant called Silver charged at tourists during an obedience display.

Helen, 47, has written a moving letter to peers ahead of the Bill’s debate, urging them to pass the planned legislation.

She said: “If the Bill had been law, 700 people who have suffered a similar horrific death like Andrea’s would have been spared.

“Perhaps my dad Geoff too who never recovered from that day of horror.” Andrea, Geoff and Helen were in the front row of an outdoor theatre at the Nong Nooch Village Garden attraction, 15 miles from the Gulf Coast city of Pattaya, when the terrifying attack happened.

Helen said: “Dozens of baby and adult elephants dressed in bright costumes and painted garishly poured into the ring.

“Astride each was a man wielding a fearsome spiked stick used to stab and terrify the elephants into
performing all manner of humiliating tricks like darts, football and even walking over rows of adults and children lying on the ground.

“One huge elephant, stabbed one time too many, suddenly charged at us. It thrust its tusks repeatedly into Andrea.” Despite having her spleen and gallbladder removed by surgeons, Andrea, from Billinge, Merseyside, died hours later from massive internal injuries and bleeding.

Helen, of Widnes, Cheshire, said that after the horrific attack, Silver was chained in a field in scorching heat for more than a month.

She said: “The Bill will steer the market from brutal and ruthless to ethical, promoting genuine sanctuaries where elephants can be observed exhibiting natural behaviour from a safe and respectful distance.”

STAE has claimed at least 1,200 UK firms are touting 277 overseas venues where elephants are “broken in by torture”.

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