The degree to which the story is fiction has been disputed. In his biography of Orwell, George Orwell: A Life, Bernard Crick cast doubt on the idea that Orwell himself actually shot an elephant. No independent account of Orwell's actions has been found and there was no official record of the incident, which was unusual considering the destruction of valuable property.
Peter Davison, the editor of Orwell's Complete Works, includes an interview with George Stuart, a contemporary of Orwell in Burma, who said that Orwell was transferred to Kathar as punishment for shooting an elephant. "An elephant was considered a valuable asset to any timber firm – and Orwell would have been severely reprimanded for such unnecessary slaughter. It was not long after the incident that he was transferred from Moulmein to a quiet post in Upper Burma called Katha." Davison also includes in the complete works a news item from the Rangoon Gazette, March 22, 1926 which describes a Major E. C. Kenny shooting an elephant in similar circumstances. When one biographer questioned his wife, Sonia Brownell, she replied, "Of course he shot an elephant. He said he did. Why do you always doubt his word?!"