Animal cruelty free travel is part of responsible travel considering animals. The responsibility a responsible traveller takes in animal cruelty free travel is avoiding unethical wildlife attractions where animals are exploited. As a responsible traveller it is important to only visit attractions featuring animals that live under acceptable circumstances. Animals should be treated fairly and have the opportunity to be wild.
It is very likely you will visit some kind of attraction featuring animals during your trip by for example visiting a national park. Or you might want to try a local fish or meat specialty. Unfortunately animals are often treated badly in tourism. Unconsciously travellers contribute to animal cruelty by visiting attractions featuring animals living under poor circumstances or consuming animals that were treated badly. To travel animal cruelty free I listed some things you can do:
1. AVOID INTERACTIVE ATTRACTIONS
With a few exceptions such as horses almost every attraction featuring animals where it is allowed to interact with animals is by definition cruel. Examples are taking a photo with an animal while holding it, feeding animals or riding animals. A wild animal like for example a sloth, a native animal from the Amazone, instinctively does not want to interact with humans. As a natural response to humans, especially when an animal is forced to do something it does not want to do, is generally violent. Tour operators that offer these kind of activities need to make sure a wild animal does not harm people. To guarantee we are safe while interacting with animals they are often subjected to violent training methods that contribute to animal cruelty. If you avoid attractions of interactive nature you will avoid contributing to animal cruelty.
2. AVOID UNNATURAL BEHAVIOUR
Examples of unnatural behaviour of animals are performances of animals. During these performances animals dance, paint, play soccer or perform other human activities. An activity like painting is not something an animal does instinctively. To teach animals how to perform animals are often starved and abused until they subject and they can start performing. Tour operators will convince you the animals are not abused. But, I guarantee you that a tiger does not naturally jump through fire hoops and a bear does not dance in the wild. They’d rather eat you. If you want to travel animal friendly it is essential to animals behaving unnaturally by avoiding any performance.
3. AVOID MARINE ANIMALS IN CAPTIVATION
Unfortunately marine animals like dolphins and whales do not have an enjoyable life in dolphinaria. Try to put yourself in the mindset of a marine animal. In the wild they have an unimaginably large habitat, namely the entire ocean. A pool, even if its the size of Amsterdam, is nothing compared to having a free life in the entire ocean. It is impossible to construct habitats for marine animals that allow marine animals to perform their natural behaviour. Often marine animals in captivation have health problems because they scrape their teeth along the sides of the pools out of frustration or boredom. A good alternative to spot dolphins for example is to visit a sanctuary where ‘retired’ dolphins live or spot them in the wild.
4. BE CAREFUL WITH LOCAL SPECIALTIES
During your trip you want to try local specialties. That is great, local products are often sustainable and contribute to the growth of the local economy. But you have to be careful with meat or fish. Sometimes a dish is offered featuring a protected animal species or the animals are held under poor circumstances before they are served. Examples are the consumption of turtles. These animals often live on illegal farms, that are presented as turtle ‘rehabilitation farms’ to travellers. When you try a local dish with fish or meat you have never tried before, double check whether these are protected animal species and whether its cruel.
5. DO YOU RESEARCH
You might feel like the only way to avoid animal cruelty when on holiday is to avoid any attraction featuring animals and eating vegan to be completely sure you travel animal friendly. That is not my point, on the contrary. Attractions featuring animals are a source of income for local communities and contribute to the protection of animal species if managed well. You should not feel discouraged to have an experience with animals during your trip, but you have to do your research before you go. Nowadays you can find everything on the internet. I have listed some key points to pay attention to:
Avoid attractions featuring animals where animals perform
Avoid attractions featuring animals where interaction is allowed
Avoid attractions that feature captivated marine animals
Check whether a tour operator has an animal welfare policy
Read reviews online
Ask the right questions: where do the animals come from? What do they eat? Where do they sleep?
There are some things you can do when you get back from your trip to avoid animal cruelty. For instance, you can share your responsible experiences with animals with your family, friends and write a review online. You can also share a negative experience (preferably with a photo and/or video) with a local organisation that protects animals. This way you can help other travellers to travel animal cruelty free.