One of my favourite things about traveling is getting up close with wildlife. Really being in touch with nature, marveling at the local animals in their natural habitat… feeling so tiny and so humble in this great big universe. But traveling and animal experiences are a very touchy subject. It’s so easy to go wrong and unintentionally support a toxic industry that exploits and mistreats animals. You may not even realise you’re doing it. But how do you know what’s ethical and what’s not? What animal projects to support and what to avoid? To be on the safe side: you should probably skip these 10 travel experiences with animals.
This is probably something most people are aware of now, especially since only recently a Scottish tourist was thrown off an elephant and trampled to death (so I guess not everyone is aware still…). If you are saying ‘but this elephant I’m riding is being treated nice by his owner’, you may be right, but you’re also not aware of the ‘training proces’. Elephants are wild animals. You can’t naturally ride them. So to make them fit for the tourism industry they are taken away from their moms as baby elephants and tortured and beaten until their spirit is ‘broken’ and they submit to their owner.
Where: Thailand mostly
2. Taking tiger selfies
The tigers you are taking selfies with are being kept in the most horrible small spaces, and have been taken away from their mothers at a young age. There’s even rumours about the tigers being drugged to be calm enough to be handles by humans. Also, occasionally one of them attacks a tourist. Also you look like a total douche on Tinder with a profile picture of you and a tiger, so stop trying.
Where: Again Thailand, but it’s also in other parts of Asia, Australia, Mexico and Argentina.
3. Walking with lions
While these lions may be treated alright, they’ve been taken away from their mothers at a young age and brought up around humans. This means they can never be released back into the wild anymore and spend their whole live in captivity in the lion tourism industry.
Where: South Africa
4. Bear Parks
Bears are usually kept in super small pits with way too many other animals. They have hardly any space to move around, and very little natural surroundings. The bears become super stressed which usually leads to stress-related illnesses for them.
Where: All over the world, really
5. Holding Sea Turtles
You seen those pretty pictures of people holding sea turtles? Yeah, you probably shouldn’t. Those babies are STRESSED OUT by it. I mean, wouldn’t you be if you were picked up by a giant? The stress makes the sea turtles susceptible to diseases. When turtles are picked up they usually start struggling to get free and in the process can hurt themselves, or be accidentally dropped which may kill them.
Where? Cayman Islands.
6. Performing Dolphins
To be fair: I’ve visited my fair share of dolphinaria, but I was never aware of what went on behind the scenes. Dolphins are usually chased with speedboats and captured for entertainment. Many dolphins can’t take this amount of stress and die. The dolphins are then kept in small spaces (no larger than a swimming pool) and often in water that’s been treated with chlorine, which is bad for the dolphins health. They also suffer from sunburns often as they can’t escape the sun.
Where? Everywhere pretty much.
7. Dancing monkeys
Even if there are the cutest thing ever (scientific fact), you shouldn’t support the monkey tourism industry. Many monkeys are abused in order to train them to behave appropriately for shows. When the monkeys aren’t performing they are usually kept in tiny cages or tied up. These chains are sometimes so tight they grow into the skin.
Where? Thailand is notorious again.
8. Civet coffee plantations
Civet’s that poop coffee cherries are essentially responsible for the worlds most expensive coffee Kopi Luwak (yes, it’s poopcoffee). In order to produce as much coffee as possible the civets are forced to eat unhealthy amounts of coffee cherries and are being kept in small cages. Many of the civets are under so much stress they start to self mutilate. Don’t visit the plantations, you’re feeding the industry.
9. Charming snakes
Walk into Marrakech or any place in India and you’ll find men either trying to charm the snakes with flutes, or flat out kiss them (which I guess is a very assault-y way of charming too). Snake charming is a centuries old tradition. Cobra’s venomous bites are deadly to humans and so their fangs are taken out, sometimes in unhygienic ways that can lead to deadly infections for the animals.
Where? Middle East and Asia
10. Farming crocodiles
Crocodile farms are filled with heaps of crocodiles made to breed, to support the fashion and meat industry. Many of these farms also offer the opportunity to visit and then eat the crocs. Many crocodiles die because of terrible living conditions and resulting stress. Because of the pits being so overcrowded, fights will usually break out between the crocodiles which can be deadly too.
Where: Australia and Africa
This post is based on the ‘Checking out of cruelty’ report by World Animal Protection Netherlands.