Who Cares About Animal-Friendly Travel?

Animal-Friendly Travels

One of the downsides of travel can be exposure to animal cruelty. I still feel sad when I think about the starving cats I saw on the streets in Egypt 20 years ago. It’s a shocking memory that’s stuck with me as much as the thrill of my first sight of the great pyramids of Giza.

I’ve seen monkeys confined in shadeless cages in Guatemala, emaciated horses pulling tourist carriages in India and beautiful live birds for sale at the food market in Laos. All of those experiences have lingered with me for decades.

If I could change one thing about travel I’d wish that all animals could be as pampered and loved as my own cat. Of course I understand that humans are more important than animals but we still need to consider animals when we travel.

Most of us love animals or want to have positive experiences when we travel. But it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of travel and do things we normally wouldn’t do, or accept things we’d normally reject in our own country.

Sometimes negative travel experiences seem to be based on cultural differences and other times we do things we wouldn’t normally do when we were at home just because it’s there or other people are doing it (so it  must be okay!).

No wonder I was excited to see that Isan Explorer are offering elephant-friendly elephant encounter tours in Thailand. That’s an experience I’d love to have with my children but could only enjoy if I knew that the elephants were happy and I’ve heard so much about elephant cruelty in Thailand.

You won’t be able to ride the elephants on an Isan Explorer tour because elephant chair rides for tourists can seriously and permanently damage an elephant’s spine. But you will get to enjoy responsible, elephant-friendly activities like walking with the elephants, watching them splash around at waterholes and helping bathe the elephants.

You definitely won’t see any elephants on chains or being beaten into obedience so all your travel memories will be positive ones. Which is great news for anyone who loves elephants – and I know I do – after all, Babar the elephant is one of my original travel heros!

Three cheers also to STA Travel for severing all ties with SeaWorld which is renowned for animal cruelty, and to tour group Tribes Travel who’ve followed PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recommendations and banned ostrich riding from their brochures and tours.

“Like all wild animals, ostriches avoid human contact in the wild, and they can be seriously injured when forced to carry human beings”, explains PETA Director Mimi Bekhechi.

“PETA encourages travelers to follow the compassionate example set by Tribes Travel and avoid any establishment offering wild-animal rides.”

I for one haven’t been faultless in the past. I confess that I rode a zebra in France when I was a girl. More recently I published a guest post called Things to See and Do in Chiang Mai which mentioned elephant riding. I’ve since updated that post to help stop the practice.

Now I’m glad to have some guidelines to follow next time I encounter animals on my travels and happy as a lark to hear about travel companies and other travelers who love animals as much as they love travel.

Have you ever been shocked by cruelty to animals when travelling? Or maybe you’ve got bright ideas about how we can help reduce animal suffering on our travels?

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  1. Sandra Pawula February 3, 2015 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for telling this truth, Annabel. I think animals need to be protected too! I haven’t traveled nearly as much as you so I don’t have any specific memories of cruelty to animals. But obviously it’s out there. It’s shocking to read the stories you’ve shared. Thanks for opening our eyes.

    • Annabel Candy February 4, 2015 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Hi Sandra,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I know it’s not a pleasant topic. I love animals and seeing wildlife is always a highlight of my travels. I’m just glad to have this information because often things felt wrong but I didn’t now they really were out of line. Now I do so it’s much clearer.

  2. Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel February 4, 2015 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel, I think this is an important point. Can you point me to any info about Sea World?? I’ve been to the one on the Gold Coast but before I started blogging… must read up more. I didn’t realise it’s bad for people to ride on elephants, we did that in Bali. Oh dear…

    On the upside I will never forget seeing the orang utan rehab place in Sepilok in Sabah many years ago – marvellous, although strictly I am sure it’d be better for the orang utans not to have visitors ogling them really….

    • Annabel Candy February 4, 2015 at 9:12 am - Reply

      Hi Seana,

      Don’t worry, it happens easily. I’ve been to SeaWorld in Australia. I don’t know any details but it just feels wrong to have dolphins in captivity and polar bears living in Queensland! SeaWorld in San Diego is notorious for its whales including on that killed a trainer.

      Re the orang utan rehab place – it sounds wonderful and I do know that having visitors to those kinds of places raises awareness about the plight of threatened wildlife as well as much needed funds. So assuming they don’t make the orangutans dress up in suits and sit at a table for morning tea to entertain people I think it’s all good :)

  3. Frenchie February 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    Could not agree more! -I try to explain to my clients why I won’t organise or book a trip to the Tiger Temple in Thailand or why one should not ride elephants and often I am just ignored – but I am sure the message will get out there eventually.
    Here is a link of why not to ride elephants by Intrepid Travel: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/why-not-ride-elephants/

  4. Alina Jack July 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Yes, you are right. I saw these things how people earn money through the animals by selling or get work from them. But I don’t think it’s possible to stop them. Everyone knows how many animals and birds use in Nonveg Items but nobody stops them because most of the people loves nonveg.

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