Travel makes the world a better place. When people experience and get to know other cultures, they become more open-minded and understanding of their surroundings. But what if travel is also having a negative effect on the same world that it teaches us to respect and cherish?
I wrote about this a bit already, in the recent blog “The number 10: Places to go Before they Change”. Tourist destinations like the Great Barrier Reef and the Alps could be lost one day because of human-induced climate change. But there are even more instances of how the travel industry harms Mother Nature by how some tourists treat her beloved animals.
The Internet is going crazy right now, over the hunting of endangered species in Africa by Kendall Jones and Axelle Despiegelaere, beauty queens with graphic photos of their prey. But animal cruelty has existed for some time now, a sad and brutal reality behind of a lot of happy vacations and holidays.
Thailand is a country very dear to my heart, after living there for over two years, but it happens to be one of the worst destinations for animal cruelty on the planet. You only need to look at the elephants giving paid-for rides and doing tricks in circus-like shows to understand why. Both are profitable businesses, since tourists can’t wait to get a photo or better yet, hop on top of one of these beautiful and gentle animals. What they don’t realize is that elephants are brutally tamed and tortured through beatings, starvation and sleep deprivation.
Thailand’s Tiger Temple is another example. The popular tourist attraction is said to be a sanctuary for orphaned tigers, run by Buddhist monks. But according to an investigation carried out by the UK charity Care for the Wild, the animals are actually illegally traded, live in poor conditions and are improperly handled.
The Thai government chooses to look the other way. Only when the international media jumped on Rihanna for posting a photo with an endangered loris, did police end up arresting two people for the abuse.
There are many more animals, caged and chained up all over the world, for the disturbing and backwards purpose of putting a smile on a tourist’s face. If they only knew?
That’s why it’s important to never support these shady businesses. If you really want to get up close and personal with an elephant in Thailand, go to a reputable sanctuary where the animals are cared for through rescue and rehabilitation. There are incredible organizations doing good like this all over the world.
Only when people speak up will we see a change. Just look at the Seaworld Boycott and the growing pressure on companies to cut ties with the amusement park. Or how Facebook bowed to public opinion by deleting Kendall Jones’ account.
Travel is a privilege of our modern day, globalized society. Let’s make sure that animals enjoy their time here on earth just as we do 🙂