Or ride them, or any of that crap. Chances are there's a guy with a hook beating the life out of them when they're not in front of you.
Having just spent a fantastic two weeks in an elephant sanctuary (there is nothing in the world cuter than elephant babies), I've seen what happens to elephants in the tourist injury. Almost all of them at the park had been through the pajaan ceremony, where they chain them up for weeks and beat them into submission. Some even had broken hips from forced breeding programs or had been blinded by their owners for disobedience.
If you do come to Asia, just try and be smart about it. You don't get wild animals to perform circus tricks for nothing.