Animals were not born to entertain us, and yet, due to humanity’s sheer fascination with them, we have turned them into a great spectacle. We want to see them, touch them, take selfies with them. Yet, as fascinating as they may be, we must remember that these animals are prisoners, forced to perform for our benefit, and they endure unimaginable suffering and abuses as a result.
The Cruel Underbelly of the Entertainment Industry
The use of animals as “entertainers” removes them from their natural habitat; deprives them of the ability to engage in instinctual behaviors; often involves cruel training methods; desensitizes both children and adults to animal mistreatment; and does not adequately address the real conservation threats that face animals in the wild today.
Swimming with dolphins, cuddling a baby tiger, or watching a dancing monkey all seem innocent enough, but there is dark underbelly to this cruel industry. The biggest issue in all the examples is perception. Much of the cruelty happens behind the scenes or in the early stages of an animal’s life when they are being trained. The tigers that people pose with, for example, look cute and happy but they are kept in tiny cages where they’re starved and punished to keep them docile. Dancing monkeys are stolen from their mothers and are subjected to such harsh training when they’re young that many don’t even survive long enough to be put to work. This generally applies to most wild animals used in the tourism industry.
The fact is, we are experiencing, watching and touching animals that are stressed, depressed, and frustrated. Animals in entertainment are considered mostly as a means to their owners financial gain, and the consumers sense of curiosity and entertainment.
Often tourists are entirely unaware of the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes. Here is a list of some of the cruelest types of attractions, those that must be avoided completely.
AVOID THE CRUELEST OF ALL
1. Dolphin and Whale Performances
In a matter of minutes a wild dolphin’s life changes. Chased by high-speed boats, caught in a net, and hauled onboard to travel hundreds of miles to their Seaquarium destination. For many, the associated stress is too much and they die in the process. Those that do make it face a lifetime confined to a tank, swimming in static patterns.
Whales and dolphins living in steel tanks suffer from loneliness, boredom, and stress without the ability to travel long distances, interact with others of its own kind and navigate their ocean home. Whales and dolphins communicate through echolocation. In captivity these sounds echo back to them from the steel walls of their tank. They stop talking and are driven mad.
2. Walk with Lions
Cubs are taken from their big cat mothers to supply the industry for tourists to ‘walk with lions’. When the cats are considered too large to ‘safely’ interact with tourists, and too ‘tame’ to be released back to the wild, they are sold to hunting concessions to be killed as a ‘trophy’. The cats entire life was lived for the sake of making money from human ‘entertainment’.
3. Tiger ‘Selfies’
Captive tigers used as ‘photographic props’ are typically kept on leads and punished in order to train and control them. Their claws and canines are removed through stressful procedures in order to prevent these magnificent creatures from mauling tourists. Like the lions above, when these cats are no longer useful they are killed or sold for ‘other’ uses.
4. Elephant Rides
Baby elephants are taken from their mothers and are beaten, hit, poked, prodded, and jabbed with sharp hooks, sometimes until bloody, to ‘break their spirit’ in training to do the most un-natural behavior – leaning down on their forelegs and carrying something on their back. As a result, these highly intelligent and sensitive beings suffer physical emotional and mental illnesses similar to those in humans.
5. Dancing Monkeys
When the young macaques are not being trained or performing they are often kept chained in small barren cages or outside on short chains. As the macaque grows the chain can become embedded into the skin leading to painful infections and disease. Most dancing monkeys live a solitary live (un-natural for these highly social animals) at the mercy of their owner.
6. Snake Charming
Upon capture for the snake charming industry, venomous cobras are typically defanged with use of metal pliers before their venom ducts are either blocked or removed with un-sanitised equipment which can often result in painful infections. They spend their lives in small cages when they are not performing for our entertainment.
7. Horse Drawn Carriages
“Forcing horses to pull oversized loads isn’t romantic—it’s cruel. Horses are forced to toil in all weather extremes, dodge traffic, and pound the pavement all day long. These gentle animals suffer from respiratory ailments because they breathe in exhaust fumes, and they develop debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces. In some cases, horses have even dropped dead from heatstroke after working in scorching summer heat and humidity.” Peta
8. Bull Fighting
Bulls who are used in bullfighting are deliberately weakened by being drugged and sometimes having their horns shaved down in order to disorient them before a fight. Sandbags are dropped on their backs, and petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to blur their vision. The tortured bulls never stand a chance against the matador, who tries to kill them slowly with repeated stabbing. And we call this entertaining.
For the rodeo crowds amusement, electric prods, sharp spurs, and bucking straps are used to to pinch the horses and cows flank area, in order to irritate and enrage the animals to make them seem wild. Countless animals have been severely injured and killed in rodeos. During bucking events, horses and bulls can suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena, causing serious injury and even death.
During roping events, a calf may reach a running speed of 27 miles per hour before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. This event has resulted in punctured lungs, internal hemorrhaging, paralysis, and broken necks.
Circus animals – elephants, big cats, monkeys, apes – suffer from lives of confinement, social deprivation, and violent training methods. Watching circus animals perform acts is as far away as you can get from understanding the natural behavior of these creatures in the wild.
Lori Robinson is a Conservationist, Writer and lover of all things Wild. Thirty years of travelling to and living in eleven African countries – from her first trip to southern Africa as a journalist, to her recent role as Africa Adventures Specialist in East Africa for the Jane Goodall Institute – has nourished Lori’s lifelong passion for the natural world. In 2009 she sold her house in Santa Barbara and most of her stuff, to live more simply. When she’s not traveling in Africa, she’s writing about wildlife and wild places from small cabins, cottages and huts in various locations. You can find Lori Robinson at SavingWild.com
To read more, please visit Saving Wild.
If you like our articles, and want to sign up for more, CLICK HERE.