"Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want."
Sometimes animal and wildlife tourist attractions are disguised as natural, helpful, or worse - as conservation, when in reality they're just masked exploitation and mistreatment, and even animal-loving tourists may not be aware of the underlying misery involved, and unknowingly pay for and support cruel practices.
Simply put - if humans are involved and there's a profit to be made, it's usually bad news for animals.
If you're interacting with wild animals in anywhere other than the actual wild or a reputable sanctuary or rescue, then the sad truth is that animal abuse is likely involved because the animals there have been captured, separated from their families, held captive, usually forced to perform unnatural activities, and given the minimum amount of care to keep them alive. And, all too often, not even that.
Here are the animal tourist attractions to avoid like the plague.
(Which a lot of them do actually carry.)
Bio: What do I know about animal health and welfare? I have an education in biology, animal behavior, and veterinary technology. Also, 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, 15 years in professional petsitting, and 23 years as an ethical vegan and in animal rights activism. I know animals.
Note: Common animal abuses such as eating or using body parts and fishing or hunting are not included on this list because they obviously directly cause pain and death. Same goes for all the local touristy 'delicacies' like eating insects, seahorses, duck embryos, snake hearts, shark fin soup, guinea pigs, frog legs, tiger wine, or any other body parts or fluids that people put in their mouths. It's not being adventurous, it's just being cruel. Eat real food instead.
Warning: These descriptions are graphic, and upsetting, and that's because these practices are cruel and need to be stopped.
"We do not need to eat animals, wear animals, or use animals for entertainment purposes,and our only defense of these uses is our pleasure, amusement, and convenience." gary francione
If you care about animals, here is what NOT to do.
Cubs are stolen from their families, kept confined in tiny cages, endure abuse and neglect, and are drugged to be used as photo props so tourists can pose to take photos with them.
walking with lions
Stolen lion cubs are confined, drugged for photos, then when they grow up and can't be released, they're used yet again to be walked on leashes, and often go on to be shot for sport in canned hunts.
Monkeys are captured, chained, starved, beaten, and often have their teeth pulled out, all to force them to perform tricks or beg tourists for money.
Koala bears are kept captive, mistreated, and forced to interact with humans, causing them extreme stress and trauma.
Sloths are confined in small cages which causes them to fight with and injure each other. Sloth bears are also kidnapped for the pet trade and are often abused and killed.
Tarsiers are tiny primates that are endangered due to habitat destruction, hunters, pet trade and tourist attractions, where they're often kept in in poor conditions, so it's important to visit them a certified humane sanctuary.
Asian palm civets are captured from the wild, confined in small cages, deprived of their natural diets, and instead fed coffee cherries to poop out so tourists can drink the coffee made from their feces called Kopi Luwak.
handling sea turtles
Don't touch or pick up sea turtles or try to 'assist' baby sea turtles getting to the sea. Sea turtle tourist attractions confine, mistreat and even kill the turtles. Tourists often harass turtles in the wild, causing harm, injury and death.
The boats used to take tourists out to sea disrupt whale's lives by interfering with their communication, breathing, feeding and reproduction. Familiarity of boats also makes them more susceptible to commercial hunting and whaling.
swimming with dolphins
Dolphins are captured and confined to small tanks where they live in unnatural, unhealthy conditions, and are forced to perform tricks, instead of living in the wild where they enjoy swimming 60 miles a day with their families.
swimming with whale sharks
Swimming with whale sharks disrupts their communication, feeding, nutrition, and migration patterns and they're often injured by boat propellers.
swimming with stingrays
Swimming with stingrays affects their behavior and feeding patterns and causes them stress and weaker immune systems. They're also often injured by boats.
swimming with manatees
Interacting with or touching manatees is not only wrong, it's illegal. Disturbing them can affect their natural feeding, safety and behavior. Also, boats.
swimming with pigs
Pigs are stranded on an island, living unnatural lives, have no proper food, fresh water, shelter or protection, are abused and sometimes killed by tourists, and also routinely killed by locals for population control.
Baby elephants are kidnapped from their families and imprisoned to a life of torture where they are beaten into submission with barbaric instruments like large sharp steel hooks called bullhooks. And, they cry.
Camels are mistreated and abused for rides and photos. They're chained, muzzled, beat with hooks, starved and tied together and riden, causing stress, painful joint diseases and arthritis, and also diseases from exposure.
Ostriches cannot safely support the weight of humans and riding them is unnatural, painful and cruel to the birds kept captive just to be used.
Horses are forced to perform excruciating physical labor pulling carts in street traffic in extreme weather, and they're often worked to death, dropping dead on the job, and causing horrific accidents.
Dogs in sledding and racing live tethered to boxes, are beaten, starved, drugged, exposed to the elements, forced into extreme physical pain, injuries and exhaustion, and are often either worked to death or routinely killed by their owners during 'cullings'.
Captive animals are used and abused for entertainment in rodeos in horse and bull riding, steer roping and wrestling, and calf roping, enduring mistreatments including tying bulls' testicles with rope (to make them buck), beating, shocking, injuries and death.
running with the bulls
Captive bulls are confined, then shocked to make them run terrified out into streets, often causing injuries and broken bones, and usually all before they're sent to painful deaths in bullfights.
Snakes used in snake charming and snake kissing have their fangs are pulled out with pliers, venom ducts blocked or removed, and sometimes their mouths are sewn shut, and then they're starved so they are forced to come out for food.
Garra rufa fish are trapped and deprived of a natural diet to the point of starvation so that they have no choice but to eat the dead skin off of feet. According to the CDC, the pedicures are breeding grounds for dangerous, resistant bacteria.
Crocodile farms, who overbreed crocodiles for their flesh and hide, cause the crocs stress and injuries at the farm and then an agonizing death as they're cut open, spinal cords severed, skinned alive, and left to die.
Small farms that sell animal products like honey, eggs, oils, cheeses, or wools often offer tours, animal feedings, or petting zoos to lure tourists. If an animal is being used for it's body, then cruelty is inherently involved. Especially sheep.
Zoos confine wild animals in unnatural habitats, temperatures and enclosures causing them physical and mental stress and suffering. It's common for animals to sustain injuries and death, from disease, other animals, and even people.
garra rufa, civet: wikipedia commons via creative commons 3.0