Doing Our Bit For Animal Wefare As Travellers
Sadly, animal cruelty is present in every country in the world. As evolved and humane global citizens with considerations towards animal welfare, it can be an intensely upsetting experience to witness the mistreatment and exploitation of animals while on holiday and as badly, unwittingly contribute to the practice.
As travellers, interaction with local wildlife can be very educational and memorable, but these experiences should always occur in the best interest of the animal. Here are a few things to consider or do when planning such encounters or when you think you’ve spotted animal cruelty during your break and what to do about it.
Different Countries, Different Laws
Although more advanced countries and states have stringent laws to protect both domestic and wild animals, many may not have such robust legislation. Sad as this is, it’s a fact and what we may perceive, as animal cruelty could, in fact, be a tradition or a part of that country’s culture. Don’t accept culture as an excuse for cruelty.
Cockfights are a common Asian exploit and known European example is the running of the bulls events that take part in some regions of Spain, France, Portugal and even Mexico where a crowd of people run in front of a small number of cattle through cordoned off streets. Although many see this as just distressing for the cattle, bear in mind that each one of them have to fight to their bloody gruesome death in a ring with picadors and matadors at the end of the day.
It is a tradition that spans centuries and is accepted as part of life in the areas it occurs. So if you care about the wellbeing of these animals then avoid these cultural events at all costs.
It may be worth the while to do a bit of research into the practice before planning in the experience. For example, not many people know that the bulls in Pamplona are kept in the dark, running up to the event, to be forced out into the light with electrical prods to create more frenzied behaviours.
Don’t Get Caught Out By “Ethical Animal Attractions”
Many animal attractions and zoos disguise themselves as animal sanctuaries, but are just trying to capitalise on the growing non-acceptance and disdain of circus animals and the rising interest in conservation.
Just because animals are “living” among monks in a temple does not automatically mean they are treated with care or rule out abusive practices. Genuine sanctuaries usually do what is in the best interest of the animals and seldom tout animal interactions with visitors. Avoid anywhere where animal are used exclusively for your entertainment.
If you do want to meet the local wildlife, then seek out ethical animal attractions that have been endorsed by credible organisations and use responsible travel sources to find places that genuinely care about the conservation and wellbeing of their animals. Genuine sanctuaries, rescue centres, and rehabilitation centres have and adhere to strict code of ethics and welfare standards through accreditations.
If It Don’t Look Or Feel Right, Don’t Get Involved
Animal tourism is big business, but some less than reputable attractions have poor standards of animal care and welfare. From locals carrying tiny monkeys, elephant rides and charging tourists for photographs to tiger tourism where these majestic animals are sedated so that visitors can get close enough for interaction and selfies – don’t get involved. These attractions need visitors in order for them to remain profitable, so if there’s any doubt about animal cruelty or welfare then don’t go!
If you are planning such activities, do a bit of investigation though photos and forums on the Internet and social media. There are a few things you can look out for that are disguises of bad welfare and animal cruelty.
- Look at the animal itself. Are there signs of neglect? Do they look dirty, malnutritioned or show signs of diseases?
- Is there enough space for the animal to roam or is the enclosure cramped and overcrowded?
- Visiting hours and times are also indicative. Can you drop-by anytime? Genuine sanctuaries will usually require that you book beforehand. They usually have strict rules that limit visiting hours so as not to overwhelm the animals
If yes to any of the above, travellers through visits do become party to the system and contribute to the cycle of mistreatment.
Report It To The Correct Authorities
If you do witness what you believe to be animal cruelty, please report it to the correct authorities. Most countries have animal welfare organisations and charities that you can contact, so if possible, take a photo or video of the situation, make a note of the time and place and report it to the relevant authorities as soon as you can.
According to the World Animal Protection, cruelty can be reported to:
- the local tourist offices
- local police
- a local animal welfare society
- your tour operator
- the zoo or aquarium management and – if you have serious concerns – the zoo association for that country