As we have all experienced the world over, the Covid 19 pandemic has created utter chaos in every ones lives. All levels of industry have suffered immensely. As the world slowly and cautiously starts to reopen, it will be the travel industry that will be most affected. Many people are looking to get away and escape the months of confinement.
But how is the way we will travel change?
One of the fastest growing trends in world has been the concept of ethical tourism. Hopefully the disruption in the travel industry presents a golden opportunity to reset and cement socially minded travel as the new normal.
There are many tourist experiences that include an interaction with animals. There is also the controversial debate about the origins of the virus in a wet market in Wuhan. Maybe these wet markets will prompt some soul-searching about the way we treat wildlife, particularly in a tourist setting. The travel industry before the coronavirus was booming. But not all tourist operators were making an ethical profit. According to the Coalition for Ethical Wildlife Tourism (CEWT), “more than 500,000 wild animals worldwide, including elephants, sloths, tigers and dolphins, are suffering for tourist entertainment”.
The tales of suffering are myriad, from cruelly chained elephants and drugged tigers, to smuggled exotic species and punishing breeding programmes of wild animals – all to satisfy a global demand, which CEWT says tops 110 million visitors annually.
Selfies may be the reason. People are driven by the allure of getting those selfies and seeing animals up close, thinking of it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Stephanie Schuttler, a wildlife biologist, blogger and podcaster.
“I really think the best way to combat these unethical tourism operations is to point it out when people do it and explain that these animals suffer,” says Schuttler, and campaigns to raise awareness of animal suffering, like #selfieaware, are successfully drawing attention to the cause.
Many of us who visit animal attractions or interact with wildlife when travelling don’t realise that we could be sustaining a cycle of poor animal welfare. The lack of awareness is alarming, with World Animal Protection claiming that 80% of people left positive reviews on Trip Advisor for venues that are having a negative impact on animal welfare. Here some tips and advice to help you steer clear of activities and attractions that involve animal cruelty.
1. Do your research
You can avoid being duped by false organisations that do more harm than good by doing your research. When you know about the suffering involved you won’t want to take part in activities like walking a lion in South Africa or touring civet coffee plantations in Vietnam.
As travellers, it is our responsibility to be informed and to make the right choices that benefit wildlife. In the age of Google, “I didn’t know’ isn’t much of an excuse anymore.
2. Don’t support hotels, bars or entertainment venues that display captive animals
Avoid staying at a hotel or eating at a restaurant that displays captive animals or offers exotic animals on the menu. If you have already booked and then find out on arrival, let the management know your disapproval. If they get enough of these comments there is more chance of them stopping the practice.
3. Don’t support the use of animals as photographic props
Almost all of these animals have been taken as babies from the wild and those that grow too large to handle will ultimately be killed. Endangered animals like the Slow Loris suffer because of their cuteness. These small, wide eyed creatures are captured from the wild and are subjected to having their teeth cut off or pulled out so they cannot bite tourists. Unfortunately many die from infection following the procedure.
Gibbons are also commonly used as photo props for that ‘all-important’ selfie and yet the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project estimates that 10 – 15 gibbons are killed for every 1 you see on the street.
4. Humanised behaviour is a no go
As a rule, avoid any animal attraction where animals are trained to perform tasks that have humanised behaviours for example riding bikes, cleaning teeth, painting etc. As Born Free explain these unnatural behaviours involve substantially more training and can have serious animal welfare implications.
5. Culture is not an excuse for cruelty
Even if an activity is considered part of a countries cultural heritage it doesn’t excuse animal cruelty. Avoid cockfighting, bullfighting or any festivals or any occasions that involve animal cruelty.
6. Consider your own welfare
You’re in a foreign country where medical care may not be fantastic. Always bear in mind, especially if you want to be around large animals, the harm that they could potentially cause you. This is another big reason to do your research and only choose to visit well managed, ethical animal attractions where visitor safety is important.
7. Use a responsible and trusted tour operator
If you are using a tour operator for part or all of your trip then once again do your research! Ask questions about the kind of attractions they offer and see if they have signed up to any wildlife protection bodies. Responsible operators like Intrepid won’t offer activities that involve animal welfare issues like riding elephants. Intrepid has committed to animal welfare (we were one of the first to put a stop to elephant rides on our trips).
8. Make the most of responsible travel resources
There are a handful of great responsible travel resources that you can use to help identify ethical animal attractions and activities.
*content from Intrepid Travel