How to be an animal friendly traveller

Today, I’m going to talk about a topic that is close to my heart: animals. Our world is becoming increasingly hostile towards animals. We destroy their habitats, hunt them for trophies and force them into factory farms. A lot of people that I talk to about this issue seem to genuinely care about animal welfare, they just don’t know what to do about it.

Here are some simple suggestions that can make a world of difference to the lives of animals.

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NO Tiger Temples

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. If you love tigers, do not go to the Tiger Temples of Thailand. So many people want a picture with a tiger so badly, that they will pay for the honour, perhaps not realising or not caring that the tigers are terribly mistreated and abused. TIME have a wonderful article on why the Tiger Temple is a terrible place. Just please, don’t do it. If you want to get close to a tiger, volunteer or join conservation efforts. This is a much more rewarding way to see them and also beneficial to the animals themselves.

Eat more vegetarian meals

I am not a vegetarian myself, but I eat vegetarian meals most of the time. I am going to make a concentrated effort this year to only eat meat if I am confident that it has been raised in a loving environment rather than brutalised in a factory farm. You don’t need to give up meat entirely but simply eating more vegetarian food makes a huge difference to the environment. So much of the world is carved up for factory farms and their emissions are directly linked to global warming.

It’s especially important to avoid the consumption of wild or endangered animals or meat that has been prepared in an inhumane way such as bushmeat.

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Volunteer

I talk about volunteering a fair bit in my blog and that’s because it changed my life. I’ve recently got back in touch with the lessons I learnt there after losing some of these important teachings when I returned to the UK. We are all passionate about different causes, but whatever your passion, volunteering is one of the most amazing things that you can do. Most people want to be near animals and as a volunteer you can do that in a way that is not exploitative. You can directly transform their life’s. I think being close to the animals and seeing the toll and cost of the damage us humans wreak can be a huge wake-up call. It can be hard not to care when you see the trauma up close.

Go on a Safari

As often as you can, go to see animals in the wild rather than in zoos. Don’t get me wrong, there are zoos and conservation sanctuaries that are making a tremendous difference to animals, and these are well worth supporting, but seeing animals in their own habitat enables their natural way of life. If you do go to zoos, make sure that they have a programme that involves reintroducing animals into the wild.

Don’t give into peer pressure

When it comes to the exploitation of animals, nature, women or any other matter that may be close to your heart, peer pressure has a lot to answer for. If you know that a particular practice is cruel, don’t go along and certainly don’t pay. Our money encourages and promotes such practices. Certain barbaric practices are excused as they are ‘cultural’ for instance bullfights in Spain, the elephant round-up in Surin and cockfights. There are other ways to get your dose of culture without perpetuating cycles of abuse.

Don’t pay for pictures

I understand that animals are beautiful and having your picture taken with one can be tempting but please don’t pay for pictures with animals. A great number of these animals have been snatched from the wild, drugged, beaten or had their teeth removed. You can take pictures of these animals in their own environments. This is far more rewarding for them and us.

In the past, I have taken pictures with animals without really realising what was going on. In Tenerife, I had three parrots foisted on me and smiled for the camera. Only afterwards did I stop and think, ‘wait a minute, that was wrong, and I encouraged it…’

Avoid swimming with dolphins

I swam with dolphins in the past, rather ignorantly but since learning a lot about how the animals are treated, I vow never to do this again. The documentary Blackfish gives great insight into how animals like dolphins and whales are treated in captivity. These animals are forced to perform and interact with humans in a way that is immensely stressful.

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Don’t buy souvenirs made from animals

If you aren’t sure if a product is made from an animal, don’t buy it. Avoid ivory (made from elephants’ tusks), fur, shells, seahorses, rhino horn and turtle shell products. There are also medicines made from animals such as tigers and rhinos. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Do not ride wild animals

In Thailand in particular, it is common for tourists to ride elephants. Elephants are captured from the wild and subject to terrible abuse to enable this to be. The elephants spirit is literally broken. If you have the opportunity to ride an animal, do not take it. When I visited Gili T in Indonesia, you can ride a horse drawn carriage around the island for the two-hour duration. The horses look exhausted and broken. Why not walk or cycle instead?

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Donate to organisations or conservation efforts that care for animals

Money is powerful. How we spend it makes a difference. If you pay money to support animals, encourage humane practices and help those who help the animals, huge changes can be made over time.

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Avoid palm oil

Palm oil is responsible for the huge deforestation of Malaysian Borneo. Avoid palm oil products or buy from sustainable palm oil sources.

Do you have any suggestions of how we can all be responsible tourists when it comes to animals? Please comment below if you do.

All my love

K

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