Tiger Temples. Elephant Rides. Bear Parks.
I gotta say something. While I don’t like to tell anybody else how they should or shouldn’t travel, when it comes to animal tourism we should all have a pretty strong stance. We should all be informed, deliberate, and honestly, angry.
Most of the time–three out of four times, to be precise–animal-based tourism attractions are gross and totally inhumane. Many countries with the worst animal tourism (Southeast Asia gets a particularly bad report card) are heavily reliant on tourism boosting their economies, and expertly hide the nastier side of their businesses from said tourists. I get it, the Instagram of you in hippie pants next to a majestic, magically chill (ever wonder why they’re so chill? It’s definitely not because they’re drugged out of their minds) tiger looks insanely cool. But it’s not! It’s just not! I have seen so many friends whom I respect and know to be smart, conscious folks, going to these places. What gives?! Maybe the allure of [insert exotic creature photo op here] is just a little too strong, and willful ignorance takes over.
Whatever it is, part of traveling the world, inserting ourselves into other countries and cultures, is doing so in an informed, responsible way. This concept applies to “voluntourism“, too, by the way. Thanks to the internet, the information is largely accessible, so there’s really no excuse not to be accountable. Do your research, do it right.
Two great organizations where you can donate or get more information on international animal abuse: Human Society International and World Animal Protection. My only direct experience with animal tourism has been in Thailand, and I used these resources (and here, and here) to ensure that the experience was ethical for all elephants involved.