Entertainment & Arts

Martin Clunes dropped over 'exploitative' elephant ride

Martin Clunes Image copyright ITV
Image caption Clunes has travelled around the globe for the ITV series

Actor Martin Clunes has been dropped as a patron of an animal welfare charity after footage emerged of him riding an elephant in Nepal.

He faced fierce social media criticism after climbing on the creature during last week's episode of ITV programme My Travels And Other Animals.

In a statement, Born Free confirmed Clunes' "deeply unfortunate" departure for riding a "captive, wild" elephant.

It said Clunes' actions reinforced a practice it is "resolutely against".

"Born Free has always been opposed to the exploitation of captive wild animals for entertainment and human interactions.

"There is clear evidence that training, keeping and riding captive elephants causes distress and suffering," the charity added.

Mr Clunes' representatives have been contacted by the BBC for comment but are yet to respond.

Concerns raised

During the episode the actor expressed open concern about riding the mammal, but said using the animals for tourist purposes was "a kinder life than hauling heavy logs".

After clumsily climbing atop the elephant, he is shown apologising, saying: "I didn't want to hurt her."

The scenes prompted strong reaction, including from Born Free's president Will Travers, who told The Daily Mirror it was "deeply unfortunate".

The Men Behaving Badly star was trending on social media throughout Tuesday morning as a result.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Elephant rides are a popular tourist draw

The English actor, 57, is no longer listed as a celebrity patron on the Born Free website, however a cached web page still contains his testimony praising the charity.

A statement attributed to Clunes said: "I like to do whatever I can for Born Free whenever I am asked. I love the Born Free Foundation, it steps in wherever there's an animal facing cruelty, abuse or unfairness of any kind... any animal in any place.

"It's a truly unique resource for wildlife conservation with a knowledge base built on years of work in the field in so many countries with so many different species. You should love it too."

Elephant riding is a popular activity for tourists, particularly across south east Asia.

Operators generally reassure tourists that they look after their elephants well, but critics say there is simply no way rides can happen humanely.

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