null Tourists can help tackle cruelty

Tourists can help tackle cruelty


From elephant riding to taking selfies with a monkey - here are some of the 'tourist attractions' to avoid this summer.

Animal exploitation is a global problem


Over the years, we've received hundreds of complaints from tourists who've seen animals exploited in a variety of ways. From circus-style performances involving cruel training and treatment in the ring to rides or treks in which animals are kept in poor conditions. As well as local festivals involving animal abuse.

Tourist attractions to avoid

The choices people make while travelling can help us make a significant difference to animals all over the world. Here are our dos and don'ts to help you avoid some of the cruel entertainment practices which you may come across whilst travelling this summer.

Selfies with a monkey

Photographers asking for money may walk around the streets or on the beach offering pictures with a baby chimp or monkey - sadly, these animals are usually taken illegally from the wild as babies.

Animal souvenirs

Many markets and stalls may sell caged birds and other small animals. While, snake or scorpion wine may well be made from an animal stolen from the wild and drowned in alcohol.

Cuddling big cats

Lions and tigers are wild animals and if they allow you to get close to them it will usually be because they've been sedated with drugs to make them easier to handle. This is often the case with snakes, chimps and monkeys too.

Riding elephants

Elephants are often illegally captured for sale to the tourism industry - once babies are stolen from the wild they're beaten until they become compliant.

Catching waves with a dolphin 

These dolphins are kept in restrictive spaces and can find swimming with people all day very stressful.

Getting in the saddle

Avoid riding donkeys, horses, or camels if you suspect any form of cruelty. It's easy to think that these animals are used to carrying heavier loads but they may be working very long hours without food or water in the heat.

Running with bulls

In Spain, Portugal, Mexico and France there are festivals where locals and visitors run with bulls, as well as other fiestas which involve considerable animal suffering.

How to be an ethical tourist

There are so many ways to enjoy your travels ethically, while still exploring and appreciating the planet and its animals.

Pack your binoculars and snorkel

You may not need to look very far to see wildlife like exotic birds and fish without straying far from your sunlounger. 

Clean up after yourself

Not only do beaches strewn with plastic bottles, rubbish and fishing litter taint the idyllic retreat we imagine our beaches to be, but they can also be very hazardous to birds, fish and aquatic mammals.

Get to know nature

It's possible to see some amazing wild animals in their natural habitat. However, always give them the respect they deserve by watching at a safe distance, for example at a nature reserve.


There are conservation projects around the globe which aim to preserve and promote animals and their habitats. You can also look into ethical volunteering trips.

Get active

Find a walking or jogging route and put on your trainers. Wildlife is often more active in the morning and evening when it's cooler - the perfect time to take a hike.

Grab a camera

Animals which are exotic to us may be pretty common in another country and give a great opportunity to capture some amazing memories on film - at a safe distance!

Be curious

Ask how animals are being cared for, if habitats are protected and where meat in your dinner comes from plus if the source is welfare-friendly and sustainable.

Speak out 

If you see animals being treated cruelly whilst travelling abroad, then speak out. You can contact a local animal protection organisation or shelter or write to the national tourism authority or embassy of that country in the UK and let them know about your concerns.

Paul Littlefair, head of our International department, has said:

Riding an elephant, swimming with dolphins, cuddling a tiger cub, or taking a picture with a monkey may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience but all of these can have very serious animal welfare and safety risks for tourists.

If there's a demand for activities like these and money to be made then cruel practices will continue.

It's important to research the activities you're taking part in first and if you are in any doubt, look for ethical alternatives.

Of course, there are ways that you can help animals in other countries by donating to a local animal welfare charity or stray dogs or cats initiative which provides veterinary care and neutering.

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