I woke this morning to an email from World Animal Protection about Beyoncé’s recent photo with a captive tiger during her vacation in Thailand. New like this can be hard to read. It’s frustrating to see individuals with such influence unknowingly support animal cruelty. It has a degree of similarity to those celebrities who claim to not be feminists — the pain is in knowing that their words carry such weight, yet can come from a place of ignorance.
Most people who visit places like the Tiger Kingdom are animal lovers. They want to be close to these creatures, to get that photo, to fulfill a lifetime wish. I saw it when I visited Chiang Mai — the popularity of this attraction, and the zoo in the city as well. I never went to the Tiger Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear about it often.
I believe that most smart travellers, including those reading this now, know of the damage caused by these organizations, the ones that exploit animals as a form of entertainment. However, it’s important not to take for granted that people know these things or that they choose to ignore the harsh realities of these places. Most people don’t have that malicious nature. Informing shouldn’t come from a place of degradation, but of education. Criticism and judgement just breed the desire to push back. Remember, the great majority of people do not want to support animal abuse, so don’t write anyone off as a lost cause.
The truth is that these animals are usually taken from their natural habitats, made to live in cages, abused in various ways, forced to interact with crowds of humans every day, and suffer psychologically as a consequence. Certain organizations may have higher standards, but the truth is still that these animals’ lives become a novelty — a form of entertainment for hire.
Before I get off track again, I’ll share a few common-sense tips about being an ethical traveller:
- ABOVE ALL, research your activities — know what you are supporting.
- Beware “photo opportunities” with animals.
- Look for the keywords: conservation, animal welfare, rehabilitation… (but still look into how they are supported).
- Ask questions to learn about what you are supporting.
- If you see something wrong, SPEAK UP.
A few sites to learn more:
And watch this:
Once again, thanks for reading! Tell me about your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
(feature photo by Oyvind Solstad, with modifications)