LAST UPDATED: 29 April 2019
Zoos often cannot meet even the most basic needs of animals, particularly exotic wildlife. Some are simply 'displayed' in barren cages, their captivity funded by unwitting tourists who pay to see 'wild animals'. Avoid going to marine parks that display dolphins and/or whales — as the needs of these animals simply cannot be met in captivity, and they suffer greatly for the sake of 'entertainment'. Check out these amazing places to see animals in the wild instead.
There is often hidden cruelty behind elephant rides. These lucrative businesses can subject sensitive and intelligent animals to cruel training practices, long working hours, confinement, chains and stress. Because of animal welfare concerns, STA Travel, Intrepid Travel, and most recently Tempo Holidays have all ceased tours involving elephant rides. Why not contact your local travel company and ask them to do the same?
Paying a few dollars for a cuddle and a photo with that baby tiger or monkey may prove difficult to resist — but often, animals used for these purposes are taken from the wild, and their mothers killed. Wild animals aren't born to perform or to pose for photos — and can be chained up when not 'working', have their teeth removed, be drugged, and trained cruelly to make them compliant. These 'picture perfect' animals can lead far from perfect lives.
There are some pretty bizarre 'meals' available around the world. Some 'exotic cuisines' are downright stomach-churning — and not just in a gastronomic sense. Be mindful that some 'local cuisines' can result from horrific cruelty (foie gras? Frogs legs? Live octopus? No thanks). Being aware of how your food choices can impact on animals is important everywhere you go (including at home!)
Never purchase souvenirs made from animals — such as ivory, fur, turtle shell products, or animal skins/pelts. Not only may they have come from an endangered animal (and could land you in some serious trouble at border control!), but they have often resulted in the animal's suffering or death. There are much better ways to hold on to your wonderful memories — why not write in a travel journal, take photos — and of course, bring your memories home with you!
Sometimes, in the quest to get that 'perfect shot', tourists can get up too close and personal to wild animals. Sadly, this can stress animals out so much that it may lead birds to abandon their nests or result in animals flying or running into dangerous situations on roads or out of their territory.
It's safest to let wild animals stay wild, leaving them with as much space as they need to move freely and without fear. We're entering their homes after all, so it's best to be respectful!
Before you head off on your big adventure, do some research into the country you're visiting, to find out which potential animal issues you might come across. This might spare you from nasty surprises (and you might also get some ideas of how you can help!)
Being able to immerse onseself into another culture is a huge drawcard for many prospective travellers, and while we should celebrate cultural differences — keep in mind they are often used to excuse profiting from animal abuse. Cock fighting, dog fighting, bull fighting and rodeos have all been defended as being 'culturally important' — but these forms of 'entertainment' can cause extreme stress, pain, and even death to animals. Ultimately, many of these so-called 'cultural' practices are run in the interests of making profit. There are many wonderful aspects to cultures the world-over that do not involve harming animals (like the La Tomatina festival, pictured) and they'll leave you with many more positive memories that you will actually want to share when you come home.
Many things we now consider to be morally and ethically unacceptable have at one time or another been defended in the name of 'tradition' (don't forget — Australia was a whaling nation once, too!). But calling something a tradition is simply a way of saying that it has been happening for a long time ... which, in the case of animal cruelty, is just another reason it should not be supported. It can be difficult for outsiders to challenge events that are considered to be traditional in some areas. But you can 'vote with your feet' by simply walking away — and making a note to contact the local tourism board when you return home to tell them why!
There is good and bad everywhere you go, so why not focus on the good and do what you can to help? There are animal sanctuaries and welfare organisations around the world — many that run volunteer programs — why not see if you can get in touch to arrange a visit while you're in the area? Not only can you gain a better understanding of local animal protection issues, but you might find an opportunity to engage with animals in a way that benefits them (and you too!)
Be worldly — be kind — be respectful.
It can be difficult being confronted with animal cruelty, no matter where you are. It's important to keep in mind that every country has animal protection issues (and organisations working to address them) — so being aware of the problems, and empowering yourself to help animals in whatever capacity you are able is far more productive than simply attacking or attributing blame to entire countries, races, or cultures. Setting a positive example for other countries to follow can be a great way to inspire change overseas! Learn more about some of the major issues facing animals in Australia — and how you can help — by heading to our campaigns page.