Are you saying yes to animal abuse? Be aware on your travels.
Before I write anything else I must confess with great shame, regret and wet cheeks stained with tears, that I have taken part in a tourist attraction which unbeknownst to me at the time involves terrible animal cruelty. I partook in elephant riding in Phuket, Thailand. More than once. It breaks my heart and tears me up inside thinking that I, ME! paid into and therefore supported the abhorrent animal cruelty that occurs at those places.
You don't see it, in fact as adults the elephants aren't often beaten... that happens when they're babies. Torn from their mothers and kept in confined spaces, beaten with sticks and bull hooks and extremely underfed until their spirit is broken and they are completely submissive to the humans who are tormenting them out of sheer terror and fear of being beaten and facing hunger and solitude again. Elephants never forget... so this mistreatment only needs to happen to them once as babies and that's enough for them to remain submissive for a lifetime. A handler only needs to raise a stick to an elephant and he or she will obey, remembering the pain that came as a result of disobeying as a baby. A lifetime chained to the ground, separated from their family, living in constant fear of being beaten, locked away on their own, and starved. I'm in tears again now as I write these words. Anybody who knows anything about elephants knows that they are herd animals, but on a much deeper more emotional level than other typical herd animals such as cows and zebras. They have families. They mourn the death of a herd member for days before they will leave its body. If ever an elephant becomes separated from its herd it is overcome with sadness and then, feeling lost and alone they completely lose all joy - and along with it, the will to live. imagine being separated from your loved ones and not only feeling overwhelming sadness as a result, but also having zero sense of freedom and being constantly frightened of being hit with sticks and jabbed with hooks. Imagine being chained to the ground day in and day out, the only time you get to walk 'freely' it can't really be called free can it? you must carry enormous and uncomfortable weight on your back - most people are unaware that despite their size elephants are not designed to carry weight on their backs. they can carry great weight with their trunks, but carrying weight on their backs does irreparable damage to their spines. What kind of a life is this for them? I understand poaching is a huge threat to their species and it is therefore necessary for humans to intervene in order to protect them. But we can help by keeping them safe in sanctuaries with acres and acres of space to roam free among their own kind, feeling happy, loved and secure. Able to follow and act out their natural instincts, behaving as they naturally would in the wild. Chaining them up to live a life filled with pain and fear in my opinion, is just as bad as poaching them. I will never forgive myself for being so naive. Because although I 'wasn't aware' of all this then, if I had just opened my eyes and looked a little closer it would have been obvious. I will never again endorse such a thing. And it's not just those elephants... It's the elephants that are used in circuses and other shows as performing acts, who go through the exact same 'training process'. This article sheds some very harsh truths and is heartbreaking to read, but I urge you to read it.
If you want to experience these magnificent beasts up close, rather choose to visit an elephant orphanage or sanctuary where they are properly cared for and roam freely in environments that replicate their natural habitat and allow them to practice the instincts they were born with. Here are two sanctuaries that I have researched into and can recommend;
Its not just elephants either! It's the magnificent tigers which are drugged out of consciousness and tormented day in and day out for tourists entertainment at the tiger temples found in Thailand and India. They suffer constantly. They're sedated to make them docile enough so that tourists can 'safely' get close to them for pictures and to pat them. but because they're zonked out and just lying around as a result of being drugged they're obviously not being very photogenic, so their tails are pulled and they are hit and kicked to look more alive and entertaining for the cameras! they can't win! handlers will even spray urine from other tigers in their faces to make them more alert, which in the wild is an extreme act of aggression - it's mental torture. They're fed a diet that is completely wrong for them, causing their natural development to go awry and making them weak. The babies are torn from their mothers at 2 weeks of age... in the wild tigers stay with their mothers for 2 years, it's emotionally traumatising for both mother and cub to be separated so early on. The cubs are then bottle fed, an 'activity' which tourists can pay a fee to partake in. Little do tourists know that the cubs are grossly overfed, to the point where they're often spewing milk back out of their mouths - all so that the 'monastery' can make more money, the more bottles the tourists feed them the more money they make. The adults are chained to the ground like prisoners... these enormous, magnificent cats who are the strongest, largest, and most agile of the entire cat kingdom are chained to the ground - some with chains so short they can't even stand up. These animals are born to be free! they're designed with outstanding physical stamina and without the excersise that they need they not only become weak, but they become overwhelmingly agitated and depressed. We all know what if feels like to be agitated... it's not a nice feeling. Imagine your whole life that's how you felt, every second of every day. The monasteries which house these tigers claim to have a rehabilitation program but there is no evidence of this to be found anywhere. Tourists likely believe that they are helping the species by paying into this 'experience' but in reality all they are helping to do is encourage this terrible cruelty to continue, and make the already rich monks richer. The tigers are nothing more to them than money makers. This article sheds some more light on the cruel treatment of these gorgeous animals;
It's the slow lorises, the orangutangs, the gibbons, the iguanas, the pythons, the macaws, who are snatched from the wild or bred in captivity (inbred mostly) to be illegally smuggled into countries across Asia like Thailand, India and Vietnam - even in places across Europe you will sometimes find these exotic creatures on the busy streets. The majority of them die of starvation, dehydration, suffocation or all three in the poor conditions which they are transported in. 1 in 10 of these animals survive the journey, but it doesn't get any better for them once they arrive. They're then forced to spend their days locked in a tiny, squalid cage and their nights used as photo props for tourists walking the streets... a life lived under sedation. Slow lorises have their teeth pulled out and venom glands removed to prevent them from harming tourists. Monkeys are sedated and/or trained in a similar way to the elephants, trained to obey out of fear. Exotic birds have their magnificent wings chopped off, and the snakes and iguanas suffer being drugged too. They go through all of this only to live in a state of constant terror and shock at the bright lights, the loud noise, and the thousands of people handling them. All things which are completely alien to them and which are extremely frightening. Read this to find out more about the terrible lives that these poor creatures have no choice but to suffer through;
It's the depressed orcas at sea world, slowly dying out of a sheer lack of will to live. They're confined to a space that is the equivalent of locking a human in a tiny prison cell for their entire life. But what have these intelligent and beautiful creatures done to deserve their imprisonment? What have they done to deserve having all the joy and happiness sucked from them just so that tourists can be entertained? Read this to find out more about the dark truth;
It's the Bulls at the running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona - tortured both emotionally and physically. Terrified of the noise, the crowds and the objects being thrown at them from every direction as they run for their lives on harsh cobbled streets for which their hooves are not designed, causing them to slip, fall and injure themselves along the way. But out of sheer terror they carry on not realising that there is no point carrying on... they're better off giving up there and then because what comes next is much worse. Next comes the physical torture. Slow, painful, and for hours... right up until their (unbeknownst to them) imminent deaths. All for what? the tourists enjoyment of course. What is to be enjoyed in all of this? how is it entertaining in any way? There is no glory and no bravery in deliberately causing a creature to suffer, no matter how big or small they are. Read here to learn more about the torture these poor beasts suffer through;
I urge anyone reading this to think twice during your travels before paying into tourist experiences and attractions that involve animals - research what you're supporting first because you could be supporting horrific animal abuse. The only way we can stop the cruelty and protect these magnificent animals is by creating awareness and removing tourist demand. If the money stops flowing, it stops happening.
Thankfully there is a lot of awareness out there now, especially recently. There are many wonderful organisations and individuals fighting for the abuse to end. Even some of the biggest tour companies are fighting against the use of animals for tourism purposes. If you would like to show your support I encourage you to get behind one of these organisations, or by donating to sanctuaries such as the wonderful elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and Africa because without funds they simply can't save the animals who so desperately need saving. Here are a few organisations/sanctuaries you might wish to support;
http://www.blesele.org/how_to_help/ - elephant sanctuary in Thailand
http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org - elephant & rhinoceros sanctuary in Kenya
http://www.peta.org.uk - PETA do incredible and life changing work for all creatures great and small across the globe.
http://www.careforthewild.com - careforthewild also do amazing work against animal abuse of any kind.
Say no to photos with exotic animals in the street.
Say no to the temptation of riding an elephant.
Say no to the 'amazing' Facebook photo you could get at the tiger temple.
Say no to watching whales perform acrobats.
Say no to the massacre that is running of the Bulls.
Over and out x