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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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