You don’t look cool. You don’t look brave. People (at least informed ones) do not envy you. Instead, we are looking at you and shaking our heads. I can’t tell you how often Travel Lushes gets tagged in Instagram photos of people riding elephants or taking selfies with sedated tigers. News flash: these animals are more than likely being abused behind-the-scenes and your animal selfies are what’s funding the cruelty.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not 100% judging those of you who do this—mainly because I understand why it happens. The majority of tourists who commit major tourism faux pas aren’t even aware of their offensive actions.
In my case, I’m a huge animal lover, so when I was younger I reveled in the idea of riding elephants in Thailand or wrapping a snake around my neck in India. But, after I grew up a little, and started using my critical thinking skills—I realized that kind of behavior would actually make me look like an asshole, rather than the animal lover I claimed to be.
If it sounds like I’m overreacting a bit, then I’ll break it down even further.
Here are just a few reasons why animal tourist attractions suck.
- Wild animals belong in the WILD, not in captivity for the sake of your entertainment.
- When you support animal attractions, you’re supporting the notion that it’s okay to snatch babies from their mothers and commit them to a life of imprisonment.
- Once captured, these animals are often beaten and harmed into obeying rules and making sure they are passive enough to be non-threatening to the tourists who pay to see them.
- Think tiger selfies are cool? How do you think the trainers are able to get them to a point where you can actually pose with them and not get mauled? They sedate them. Heavily. And they’re chained so close to the ground they can’t even properly stand up. Some places even remove their claws and teeth and have the tendons in their wrists clipped. Tiger Temple—I’m looking at you.
- These attractions are lying to you and stealing your money. They use verbiage like “animal sanctuary” to make you believe they are promoting conservation efforts.
World Animal Protection recently released a list of the top 10 most cruel wildlife attractions:
- RIDING ELEPHANTS
- TAKING TIGER SELFIES
- WALKING WITH LIONS
- VISITING BEAR PARKS
- HOLDING SEA TURTLES
- PERFORMING DOLPHINS
- DANCING MONKEYS
- TOURING CIVET COFFEE PLANTATIONS
- CHARMING SNAKES AND KISSING COBRAS
- FARMING CROCODILES
Read the PDF to learn more about why all of these animal attractions are cruel.
MY ADVICE TO YOU: DO YOUR RESEARCH
The animal selfies topic is very difficult for some, because many travelers dream of snapping photos of themselves with their arms wrapped around a tiger or riding on the back of a majestic elephant. You need to ask yourself if your quick photo snap is worth the price of an animal’s lifetime of misery.
All is not lost though, animal lovers. Angloitalian posted a great article on how to choose a responsible alternative. The biggest takeaway from this article is to DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out before your trip what your options are and then spend time reading and cross-checking reviews about the attractions you find interesting.
Just remember this quote:
“If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, then you can be sure it is cruel.”