There are many ways to avoid supporting animal cruelty when you're on vacation. Sadly animals are often exploited for financial gain or simply for enjoyment. Tourists are seen as a source of income, and animals as a means of luring the tourists and their cash. But there are steps we can take to ensure that our money doesn't promote cruelty towards animals. Here are some ways to avoid supporting animal cruelty when you're on vacation …
One of the ways to avoid supporting animal cruelty is to avoid festivals and events that promote cruel practices, such as the running of the bulls in Pamplona. But it's not enough to simply stay away - you should let people know you're not visiting and why. Contact the tourist office and inform them that you won't be holidaying in their town while such cruel practices continue.
Some zoos are better than others, although whether they should exist at all is a matter for debate. Many keep their animals in unsuitable conditions that affect their well-being, and they are stared at by visitors all day. Also avoid marine parks and circuses with animal acts. It's wrong to teach sentient creatures to do tricks for our amusement.
When you see a cute animal and its handler, you may be tempted to have your photo taken with it. But what you don't know is that the animal may have been drugged so that it is docile, or had its claws removed so that it can't harm anyone. It will also have been trapped in the wild and probably taken away from its mother. Pay for a photo and you are encouraging the continuation of this cruel trade.
Many countries prohibit the importation of souvenirs made from animals. You shouldn't even buy them and try to get them through customs, as buying such items helps create a demand - and so the trade continues. Items like shells, ivory and fur should be left on the shelf; if enough people do this then maybe the message would get through.
Going for a ride on an elephant looks like fun, doesn't it? It'll make a great memory for your holiday. But will the elephant enjoy it as much as you do? You don't know if it's well cared for, and it's not what an elephant should be doing. Even horses may not be well treated. So it's best to avoid animal rides if you don't want to support cruelty.
Sadly not all countries have an enlightened attitude towards animal welfare, and even those that do have some cruel individuals. If you see any cruel behaviour towards animals, don't hesitate to report it to the authorities. You can also make a report to the Born Free Foundation (bornfree.org.uk).
Wild animals should be treated with respect, not as entertainment, so avoid getting too close to them. It's not just for your own safety; they're not used to people and it may stress them if you get too close to them. Or it may put them at risk by encouraging them to trust humans - which is usually not good for them.
No animal should have to suffer so that people can have a good time - and it's perfectly possible to enjoy a vacation without contributing to animal cruelty. Keep your distance from the wildlife and respect their environment. What do you think of zoos - do they serve a useful purpose?