The Ethical Tourist Guide – Animal Welfare & Travelling Abroad

Are you packing your bags and planning your next whirlwind adventure? If so, you are now faced with the difficult task of finding a tourist attraction that does not support the unethical or horrific treatment of animals for financial gain.


The Ethical Tourist Guide



By Zoe Strapp

Approximately 110 million people visit wildlife tourist attraction per year, and due to lack of regulations, more than 550,000 animals are suffering at the hands or irresponsible tourism operators. To help you plan your next journey, we have created a quick guide to help you prevent animal exploitation in the tourism industry.


Elephant Rides

We all love the beautiful elephant, however, across the world, many of these highly intelligent creatures are suffering at the hands of humans. Captured elephants undergo crushing of the spirit (or Phajaan), a practice that binds and tortures the elephant, with ongoing discipline through painful whipping. Elephants in places like Thailand can no longer be freed due to urban development, where wild populations have diminished due to their land being encroached upon. Instead, a string of ‘retreats and camps’ have been set up, who advertise themselves as agents of eco-tourism, which is particularly attractive to tourists. Most of these institutions do not prioritise animal welfare, and instead, exploit wildlife for profit.


Bear Parks

Do you believe concrete pits are a suitable home for the iconic black bear? Baby cubs and full-sized bears are being barricaded in Japanese bear parks for the amusement of onlookers. Tourists throw food scraps, causing fights to break out, and only the fittest will survive. Added to this, the poor living conditions in which these bears are forced, cause ongoing physical and psychological harm.


Dolphins in Captivity

The iconic dolphin is often found diving the open ocean to depths of 300m and gliding up to 40km/h. Sadly, many theme parks have ripped dolphins from their natural habitat, confining them to glass cages where they will spend the remainder of their existence being photographed by tourists or forced to perform tricks. Many dolphins held in captivity are forced to endure contaminated water quality, ongoing stress from human interaction, improper care and lack of a natural social environment.


Whale Watching – Just Watching?

Whales require community conservation to continue as a prosperous species. Unfortunately, companies running whale watching tours, while educating people, do not always follow ethical regulations. Impacts include increased stress levels, change in diving patterns and feeding habits and damage to physical health via vessel noise and pollution.


Animal Selfies

Photo prop species such as monkeys, birds and tigers have their true nature ripped away for the sake of a selfie. Often, their claws and canines are removed, their mouths are bound shut and they are drugged to the point of complete submission, leaving nothing but an aesthetically appealing shell for tourist amusement.


Sea Turtle Encounters

Sea turtles are arguably one of the most beautiful marine species in the world, and tourists around the world will flock to locations that advertise turtle interactions. However, many tourist operators will offer unethical close encounters with sea turtles that can severely impact that health, well-being and life expectancy of the turtle. Handling sea turtles and disturbing them on the beach can disrupt nesting behaviour disorient hatchlings and negatively effect incubating egg clutches. Sea turtles, who are already threatened by hunting, pollution, marine debris, artificial lighting, trawlers, and oil spills, will not be able to avoid extinction if humans continue to threaten them.


Trophy Hunting

Do you believe we have the right to kill for sport? Trophy Hunting allows tourists to pay huge amounts of money to kill iconic species, such as elephants, lions, rhinos and cheetahs. With little governance, these animals are hunted in droves simply to satisfy a person’s desire to obtain a ‘trophy’. Many of the animals used in trophy hunts are classified as endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN Red Listing of Threatened Species.


Animal Rides & Carriages

Before you commit to riding an animal or being carted through the streets on a horse-drawn carriage, it is important to remember that these animals are often subjected to horrific cruelties at the hands of their owners. While we all love a novelty, these animals are often abused into submission, overworked, and receive little to no veterinary care or stimulation.


Circus Animals

Childhood memories are often filled with spinning circus artists spinning atop elephants and taming tigers in a mosaic of wonderful colour. Unfortunately, while it may appear spectacular, the reality behind a circus animal’s life is far from it. Circuses reach hundreds of cities a year, with animals often held in cramped cages, receiving inadequate veterinary care and minimal time in their natural environment. Species such as chimpanzees, tigers and elephants, are often beaten into submission and confined to cages.


How You Can Help

> See our list of partner charities who work with conserving wildlife and ending cruel captive practices worldwide.

> Read our article on the silent victims of tourism.

> Read our article on ‘the curse of cute and the illegal pet trade’


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