Hundreds of thousands of wild animals across the world are taken away from natural habitats, forced into captivity and subjected to abuse, both mentally and physically, in the name of entertainment and profit.
Seven Senses Tours does not offer and strongly oppose any activity involving animals other than viewing wildlife in their natural habitats.
We work with World Animal Protection and we donate a small but significant amount of £5 per person per trip directly towards protecting animals around the world.
Your choices on holiday have the power to reduce demand for cruel attractions and save animal lives.
If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, the chances are it’s a cruel venue. Don’t go.
You can protect wild animals from the cruelty of tourist entertainment by taking action on your own holidays.
Why it’s vital to protect animals when you travel
Seeing wild animals when you travel can be such a memorable part of any travel experience. However, you may not be aware these animals often suffer unseen cruelty and abuse.
Many wild animals are taken from their natural environments to be exploited for entertainment and profit. You may see animals that belong in the wild being used in live shows or being offered for transport and rides. You may be approached to pose with animals for photos, or be offered animal souvenirs or by-products. Often, the worst cruelty is hidden from view.
Elephants are trained to perform for tourists in shows, they’re beaten with rods to learn ‘tricks’ and chained to restrict their movement.
Bears are kept in tiny cages and suffer horrific mental and physical pain as a syringe is repeatedly pushed through the bear’s skin into the gall bladder to extract bear bile to sell to tourists.
Sadly, many tourists who love animals may actually contribute to animal suffering simply because they’re unaware of the hidden cruelty.
World Animal Protection helps people like you protect animals
Read below what to look out for so you can make informed decisions about animal experiences on your journey. The more we can be aware of the way animals are being treated, the more we’ll be able to protect them from cruelty and suffering.
Being animal friendly when you travel means you always show respect – for the people, the culture, the environment and the animals, in every country you visit.
Wild animals belong in the wild
A captive wild animal can never truly experience a life free from suffering and cruelty. No matter how well they are looked after in captivity, only in their wild environment can all the animals’ needs be fully met. When you see a captive wild animal on your holiday, often you can’t see the cruelty. It’s hidden from view. Whether taken from the wild or bred in captivity, all captive wild animals have their own stories of pain and suffering. Here’s just one example. Elephants used in entertainment can appear to be well looked after, but the reality can be very different. Where they’ve come from and how they got there is a terrible journey that most holidaymakers aren’t aware of. Young elephants are valued much more than older ones, so they become the targets of poachers. They’re easier to catch, transport and train. In the wild, these adolescent elephants are trapped in pits, crudely-dug holes from which they can’t escape. Equally traumatic, many elephant calves are bred and born into captivity - never to experience a life without pain and stress.
Ripped from their families and transported to their destinations, terribly cruel training awaits. Rods with spikes, chains, ropes, and “the crush”. And this is just the beginning. This elephant will now be forced to entertain tourists with its free time spent socially isolated and physically restrained for the rest of its life. And as long as the demand remains for this kind of tourism, so will the cruelty. By being aware of the impact your decisions can have, you’re taking the first step to ending the cruel exploitation of wildlife.
What to look out for on your holiday
At last you’re on your journey! Now ask yourself these simple questions that can help protect the animals you encounter as you travel.
1. Does this animal have food and water? Many wild animals used to entertain tourists, like elephants and monkeys, are forced to work long hours with limited access to fresh water and food. They may suffer heat stress, exhaustion and dehydration.
2. Is there rest and shelter for the animals? Wild animals used to entertain tourists have often been taken from their natural environments. They are kept in enclosures with little or no protection from harsh weather, and are not given adequate rest.
3. Is this animal in pain and suffering? Many captive animals may be suffering from poor nutrition and health, caused by an inadequate diet or access to little or no veterinary care. Some animals will have their teeth pulled or claws clipped, causing terrible suffering.
4. Is this ‘natural behaviour’ or is it cruelty? Captive animals are often taken from their families. Many wild animals have complex social structures that cannot be recreated in captivity. These animals are exploited for entertainment, forced to perform unnatural behaviours.
5. Will I see animals in distress? Performing wild animals in zoos, shows and circuses often suffer from high stress levels and psychological trauma caused by close confinement, inadequate conditions and cruel training methods. It’s the cruelty you don’t see that can be the most distressing.
While you are away
Don’t accept culture as an excuse for cruelty: Cockfights, bullfights and the use of animals in religious or other festivals can all be considered part of a local culture.
Don’t try local cuisine if it includes wild animals: Avoid food items that include endangered animals, or involve inhumane production, such as bushmeat. Avoid drinking civet coffee, which may have been produced by civet cats kept in cages.
View wildlife where it belongs: in the wild: Many zoos keep animals in poor conditions with their basic needs denied. Conservation zoos should have breeding programmes that meet the needs of the animals in their care, with a view to eventually releasing these animals, or their offspring, into the wild.
Never pay to have your picture taken with a wild animal: Many of these animals have been taken from the wild. They may be drugged, harshly trained or have had their teeth removed so they ‘behave’ around tourists.
Captivity cannot meet the natural needs of marine mammals like dolphins and whales: Activities like swimming with dolphins should always be avoided – they may appear fun and educational but are unnatural and stressful for the animals involved.
Never buy souvenirs made from wild animals: Avoid all products and souvenirs made from animals, including all fur, ivory, shells, seahorses, teeth, rhino horn and turtle shell products.
Avoid riding wild animals like elephants for entertainment: These animals are often captured from the wild, badly cared for and trained using inappropriate and cruel methods
The world’s cruellest attractions
Travel companies around the world profit from some of the cruellest types of wildlife tourist attractions on earth. Whether it is riding elephants, taking selfies with tigers, or performing dolphin shows, these activities can cause lifelong suffering for wild animals. Last year Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) analysed 24 different types of wildlife attractions across the world. They rated them based on welfare and conservation criteria - World Animal Protection used this information and combined it with their own research to identify 10 of the world’s cruellest types of attractions.
Millions of tourists visit dolphinaria, but they are unaware of the cruelty and abuses the dolphins endure to perform in shows. Whilst it is banned in countries like the US, many performing dolphins around the world are still captured in the wild. They are often chased by high-speed boats before being hauled on board or caught in nets. For many, the stress is too much to take and they die during transportation to their intended destinations. Whether wild caught or captive bred, dolphins in dolphinaria face a lifetime of suffering. They spend their entire lives in a space not much bigger than a swimming pool – completely unnatural and restrictive compared to their natural open sea environment.
In order to make elephants submit to elephant rides and other human interactions, they are taken from their mothers when babies and forced through a horrific training process known as ‘the crush’. It involves physical restraints, inflicting severe pain and withholding food and water. By the time tourist come to ride an elephant, it may look at peace, but this is because it’s spirit has been broken. The bullhook used permanently reminds the animal of human dominance. The cruelty does not end after the crush. When not performing or used for rides most elephants are kept on chains, unable to socially interact with one another. This is hugely damaging to their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Taking tiger selfies
Tiger cubs are separated from their mothers at an early age so they can be used as photo props. They are handled and hugged by tourists and typically kept chained-up, or in small barren cages.
In Thailand World Animal Protection found 17 tiger entertainment venues housing up to 830 tigers. Although cruel tiger tourism venues can be found throughout Thailand, this is a problem around the world.
Their new report, ‘Tiger selfies exposed: a portrait of Thailand’s tiger entertainment industry’, has been released in the run-up to International Tiger Day (29 June 2016). It is the first of its kind, delving below the surface of Thailand’s wildlife tourism industry, and showing just how many tigers suffer when forced to act as props for tourist photos.
Walking with lions
Lion cubs are bred and taken from their mothers typically within a month of birth to supply the growing lion tourism industry, mostly located in Southern Africa. Tourists handle the cubs for hours and pose with them for photos. They are also often told to hit the cubs if they display aggressive or unwelcome behaviour. When the cubs grow too big for tourists to pick up and hug – but are still young enough to control – they are used for the relatively new walking with lions tourist experience. The lions are trained to ‘safely’ walk with tourists, sometimes on leads. These lions face a lifetime in captivity as they cannot be released into the wild.
Holding sea turtles
The world’s last remaining sea turtle farm that acts as a tourist attraction is in The Cayman Islands. Here, tourists can hold turtles and even eat them during their visit. Suffering from stress and disease, sea turtles live a tortured life at the Cayman Turtle Farm. They often panic when they are handled and it has been known for tourists to drop them, causing significant injuries which can kill turtles.
These are only five of the ten world’s cruellest attractions, revealed in our ‘Checking out of cruelty’ report. Up to 550,000 wild animals are currently enduring lifetimes of suffering at tourist entertainment venues globally.
Monkeys are forced to dance, civets are caged and force-fed to make high-end kopi luwak coffee, and intensive crocodile farms are drawing crowds of holiday makers.