The world truly is your oyster these days, with travel becoming easier and cheaper than ever before. But is the money you put aside for travelling actually supporting animal cruelty?
The sad reality is that the need for unique travel experiences can have an impact on animals and wildlife across the world. That profile pic you took with a tiger in Thailand? The sea turtle you held in the Cayman Islands? The elephant you rode in Bali? The horse and cart ride you took around New York’s Central Park? Even if you weren’t aware, these are all tourist activities that don’t have animals’ best interests in mind.
Wildlife tourism is a booming industry, with an estimated 560,000 wild animals currently involved in wildlife tourist attractions across the world. Whilst a portion of these have a positive impact on the welfare of animals involved (i.e. wildlife sanctuaries), the sad reality is that there are countless wild animals being held captive and treated irresponsibly for the purpose of tourism.
This is general information only and does not take account of your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on it, consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.
Changing your travel habits
If the above strikes a chord with you and you want to be more cautious about where your travel money goes, here are some tips for changing your travel habits for the good of animals.
1. Do your research
This is an obvious one. Before you go anywhere, do your research. When you know about the suffering, you won’t want to be a part of activities like walking a lion in South Africa or touring civet coffee plantations in Vietnam. Doing your research keeps you informed and will help you make the right choices. When booking a tour or experience involving animals, inquire if the company has committed to the World Animal Protection Organisation’s agreement to end wildlife cruelty in tourism entertainment.
2. Avoid photos with animals
Most animals used as props for photos have been taken from the wild as a baby. The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project says that the parents are killed in order to obtain the baby gibbon. The baby gibbon does not always survive the fall from the canopy once the mother is killed, so in most cases, many gibbons are killed to obtain just one baby. If these actions continue to be financially supported by tourists, gibbons will one day be extinct.
Again, do your research. Besides captivity being wrong, some countries make taking protected species from the wild illegal. If you suspect an animal has been taken illegally, report it to either the local tourist office, police station, or animal welfare society and be sure to detail the location, date, time, number of animals, and type of cruelty involved.
3. Avoid hotels and entertainment venues that use animals for decoration
If a hotel displays captive animals or hangs animals from the walls, don’t stay in it. Also, check the menu in the hotel restaurant (and all restaurants for that matter) to ensure no exotic animals are being served up as food.
4. View animals only in the wild
Zoos often cannot meet the basic needs of their animals, particularly exotic animals. Marine animals like whales and dolphins are a definite no-no, as their needs aren’t even close to being met in captivity. Animals that perform in circuses and zoos often experience high levels of stress and even trauma caused by inadequate living conditions and cruel training methods. Instead, view animals in their natural environment by visiting some of these great places.
5. Ride bikes – not elephants!
Elephant rides make for a lucrative tourism business, but the popular activity is subject to cruel training practices. In fact, 75% of adult elephants used for tourism entertainment have been taken directly from the wild. Elephants are intelligent and sensitive animals and don’t fare well under confinement, long working hours, chains, and stress. Admire them from afar, don’t sit on them.
6. Understand that ‘culture’ isn’t an excuse for cruelty
It might be culturally significant to attend a bullfight, rodeo, or cockfight, but cruelty in the name of culture has gone on too long. Hunting was once a necessity for survival, but now it’s just entertainment that can cause extreme stress, pain, and even death to animals. Isn’t it time we just say no?
7. Support animal sanctuaries
If you notice animal cruelty in a country you are visiting, there’s a good chance that somewhere in that country is an animal sanctuary. Find out where it is and support it by volunteering a couple of hours of your time, some resources, or some funds. Not only can you gain a better understanding of local animal protection issues when visiting a sanctuary, you can find an opportunity to engage with animals in a way that benefits them too.
8. Travel vegan style
Overseas farming practices are a bit of the unknown, so if you’re not sure, travel vegan-style. Vegan travel is made easy in places like India, Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, and even Israel so why eat animal products if you don’t have to? A plant-based diet will fuel you with energy for all your adventures, too!
9. Ask questions
If you’re considering booking an organised tour or you’re making arrangements through a travel agent, check if they have an animal welfare policy in place. If you’re making your own arrangements, ask friends and family questions or ask online. The more equipped with knowledge you are, the smarter the decisions you make. If you encounter animals as you travel, ask yourself the following;
Is the animal suffering or experiencing pain? Many captive animals may be suffering from illness or poor nutrition due to lack of veterinary care. If you notice animals that have their claws clipped or teeth pulled out, it’s likely they’ve been mistreated.
Does the animal have access to food and water? Many animals used for entertainment (elephant riding, monkey shows etc.) work long hours in hot conditions without sufficient access to food and water. This can lead to dehydration and exhaustion.
Is this natural behaviour for the animal? Most wild animals have intricate social structures that are removed once in captivity. Animals that are forced to perform and entertain are acting outside of their natural behavioural patterns which could be causing them considerable distress.
Animal-friendly travel is the cruelty-free way
The thing to remember is that you don’t need to stop travelling, you just need to travel smarter. To travel with your integrity intact, stop and think. Do you really need that picture with a gibbon on your shoulder or would a beautiful landscape be sufficient? If you’re an animal lover and you want wildlife to be part of your travels, do sufficient research and only take part in renowned eco tours where nature and wildlife are left undisturbed.
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About the author: Noelle Greenwood
Noelle has been a passionate advocate for human rights since she walked her first 'walk against want' as a 10 year old. Her formative years were spent under her parent's wing in rallies, marches and kazoo-bands. All of this in the fairly conservative region of North Queensland, it's needless to say that activism is in her blood. As she's transitioned into making more conscious consumer choices across different aspects of her life, she's become more and more interested in the plight of creatures who are systematically harmed, exploited and killed for no good reason. Noelle likes to write about human rights, animal rights, climate change, feminism, indigenous issues, LGBTIQ issues, and generally anything that will spark a healthy argument with some of her right-wing acquaintances (the ones that are up for a healthy argument, anyway!).
This is general information only and does not take account of your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on it, consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional. When considering financial returns, past performance is not indicative of future performance.
This product is issued by Diversa Trustees Limited (ABN 49 006 421 638; AFSL No. 235153; RSE Licence L0000635) as trustee for Professional Super which is a sub-fund of the Tidswell Master Superannuation Plan (ABN 34 300 938 877; RSE R1004953). Professional Superannuation Management Pty Ltd (ABN 31 617 160 791; AFSL No. 499786) (PSM) is the Promoter of Professional Super, which is marketed under multiple brands including Cruelty Free Super.