“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
When it comes to the reality of animal cruelty within the tourist industry, we make Malcolm X right: education is key. Shocking research undertaken by World Animal Protection found that, globally, three out of four wildlife tourist attractions involve some sort of animal abuse or conservation concerns, with over half a million animals suffering in these tourist spots. So how, as animal lovers, do we become more informed about the choices we are making when it comes to the animal tourist industry? Here are a few pointers to help you make informed decisions…
If an animal is pitched as doing something it wouldn’t do in the wild, the chances are it has been trained to suppress its natural behaviours. With people moving towards a better sense of what is right and what isn’t within animal tourism, if the attraction you’re looking at is not treating its animals well, hopefully the reviews will reflect that. You may have to dig deep to unearth potential welfare issues, but read everything you can before you book your tickets.
This list is by no means definitive, but is a good start for thinking about what is best avoided:
Wildlife selfies – From monkeys to tigers, giant iguanas to apes, animals being touted either at an attraction or on the beach at your holiday destination are often drugged to keep them calm and compliant. It is also undoubtedly cruel to keep an animal for the sake of a quick snap for the tourists. Take a photo, from a distance, of the animals in the wild instead.
Swimming with whales and dolphins – Instead of the vast open waters of their natural habitats, marine animals are kept in small, featureless spaces so that humans can be entertained by them. Instead of swimming with their family groups for miles a day, these mammals often end up with dorsal fin collapse as a result of swimming in endless circles. Shockingly, 100% of captive male orcas end up with this, compared to 1% of wild, male orcas.
Sea turtle handling – Touching turtles can cause mental stress to the turtle. Six out of seven sea turtle species are listed as endangered or threatened because of us humans.
Snake charming – Fangs are removed and venom blocked for the sake of the animal tourist industry. This procedure is not only painful for the snake, but can sometimes cause long term issues that ends in death by starvation.
Elephant trekking, riding, performing, or painting – Training an elephant to be compliant for these activities usually involves being beaten with prods and canes. Captive elephants live significantly shorter lives than their wild relatives.
Rodeos, stampedes, and bullfighting – These activities are dangerous for animals AND humans. These archaic events need to end, and they only will if people refuse to take part.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Gautama Buddha
Be that single candle – we can ALL make a difference when it comes to taking time to research ethical things to do with our children, and to find animal conservation projects, animal charities or animal sanctuaries that we can get involved with. The reward to helping instead of contributing to the problem far outweighs a 2-minute wildlife selfie with a drugged orangutan.
There are countless amazing rescue and rehabilitation wildlife and animal sanctuaries around the world, many of which rescue animals that have been retired from unethical tourist attractions. Do your research and find one of the wonderful ones to bring your family to.
If, despite your best research efforts, you end up seeing abuse or exploitation, no matter where in the world you see it you can make a report to Born Free’s Raise the Red Flag Platform. Provide as much information as you can and include videos and photos if possible to help with the investigations. There is also a really useful interactive map on the site that shares information on places that have been flagged to them.
We hope that this guide has been helpful, and please do share it on your social media and with friends and family so that we can continue to educate and highlight animal welfare as far and wide as possible.
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