Summer’s coming up and most of us leave our countries of residence to soak up the sun, culture and ambience of another country with our loved ones. For many, this involves going some place new and discovering what the local attractions have to offer. Unfortunately, it often involves some sort of animal activities: zoos, dolphin shows or something else where people who are curious and love these creatures are drawn in and unbeknownst to themselves support an industry that is inhumane for the very animals we care about. You don’t have to stop eating local meats or cheeses if you don’t want to, but being an animal-friendly traveller is actually really easy and makes all the difference for the animals.
The animals in question do not have to be endangered species for it to be animal cruelty – rather it’s about the conditions they live under and how they are trained in order to follow instructions from humans. I’ve made the mistake myself in my younger days, not realizing that my well meaning and curiosity was in fact contributing to the exploitation and cruel treatment of the animals. So here’s how to make sure that you are an animal-friendly traveller this summer and all the summers to come!
Avoid zoos, acquariums, riding on elephants etc.
Does the activity involve watching, touching or taking pictures with animals who are confined and not in their natural environment? Are you offered to ride an elephant, a camel or a donkey? Be smart about it. Many zoos and acquariums claim that they are doing conservation efforts and study the animals but that is not a good reason to keep them locked in small confinements, much smaller than their natural habitat. There are countless examples of this, SeaWorld being the most famous one, where animals die from being mistreated. While elephants and camels do get to walk around, they also stand in the sun for many hours just waiting for tourists to pass by and often have to carry hundreds of people per day. Sometimes they are left with no water or food and are trained, often with cruel methods, to not be agressive towards humans. If you wouldn’t ride an elephant in its natural habitat, please don’t do so elsewhere either.
Is a sanctuary a sanctuary?
Many places claim to be sanctuaries for animals, but many of them have proven to have hidden agendas and in fact exploit the animals themselves. Google the places you plan on visiting or contact a local animal right’s group and ask them if the place treats its animals well. Just because a place claims to be saving animals, doesn’t mean they necessarily do. This is especially true in Asia, with many elephant or tiger “sanctuaries” who invite tourists to pet the wild animals.
Don’t buy cruel souvenirs
Many places you can buy souvenirs made from animals – shark teeth necklaces, “medicine” made from animal blood, shells from turtles or sea animals etc. Don’t buy these! Most places have other beautiful, hand-made souvenirs that you can take home instead of something that has put an animal through torture.
Here’s one I think that especially us Scandinavians need to be a lot better at! Often we tend to not speak up in order to avoid confrontation but it’s really, really important that you show that animal cruelty is not okay. If your travel agency offers excursions where animals are exploited – let them know it’s not okay! If you see something on the street where an animal is exploited or hurt – please do speak up! Report offences towards animals to the local authorities. If you see a hurt or homeless animal – contact a local shelter. If travellers show that we do not accept animal cruelty, travel agencies, hotels and governments might move towards a more humane tourism in their countries.
Photos via Pixabay.com/CC0 Public Domain