If you just want to do some sightseeing around Thailand for example, do not book an elephant ride… you will be part of the horrible mistreatment of these animals. Humans beings use to force them since they are babies to obey with wooden sticks and pics. Sometimes they did not receive any water all along the day, just used to carry dozen of people per ride, without any rest.
They are not machines but they are used in a terrible way, with none friendly thoughts. If you want to do a tour, book a rickshaw ride : the benefits will go to locals and not helping people bullying elephants.
Here you will find an article from Jeremy about it !