1. You Get An Uneasy Feeling
I can’t deny, it’s amazing being so close to such an incredible animal.
But there’s another nagging feeling telling you something isn’t quite right.
- Why won’t the trainer stop hitting the tiger’s nose that stick? It’s not doing anything wrong!
- Is that tank the only space the orca gets? Or is there more hidden around the back somewhere?
- Why does the mahout keep hitting the elephant with that hook?
- Or where do all these lion cubs come from? Where are their mothers?
2. Captive ≠ Domesticated
You have no problem seeing a dog sit for a treat. So why is it uncomfortable watching a bear dance?
Dogs truly love us. They’ll run to us when they’re scared rather than other dogs. No other animal in the world trusts another species more than their own.
That’s because wolf domestication started 33,000 years ago. We favoured the friendliest and killed off the most aggressive. And over tens of thousands of selectively bred generations, we got modern dogs.
Bears haven’t gone through domestication. In fact some captive animals are heading in the complete opposite direction…
Captive animals are so expensive to keep it makes financial sense to breed all of them, rather than selecting.
SeaWorld’s Tillikum, for example, is an incredibly aggressive orca. He’s responsible for the death of three people and countless attacks. But because of the lack of options his semen has been used to father 21 calves.
SeaWorld aren’t domesticating the orcas. If anything they’re making them more aggressive.
3. Performing Animals Aren’t Happy
The only way to train a wild animal is fear.
You have to remove the ability to walk away. Separate it from it’s mother at as a baby. Beat it into submission. Starve it as motivation. And keep on beating and intimidating it for the rest of it’s life to keep it ‘loyal’.
These animals are so afraid of their trainers and desperate to avoid more punishment that self defence isn’t an option. Compare it to an abusive relationship. The victim is probably capable of self defence. But because they are so broken, beaten and emotionally worn down they don’t consider themselves strong, even though they are.
This tried and tested method is used across the animal entertainment industry, with each business varying the practice slightly.
- Elephants in Asia and European circuses are put through the Phajaan as calves. Up to two weeks of torture in a tiny crate to small to move. Starved, kept awake, and relentlessly stabbed with bullhooks and nails. Eventually their sprirt is broken and they will start to cooperate. One of the first tricks is accepting someone onto their backs.
- Big cats are seperated from mothers, declawed (a dangerous practice which removes bone), beaten and starved into submission.
- SeaWorld train their orcas two at a time. If one doesn’t perform correctly, neither get fed. Not only do they both go hungry, they will also turn on each other in frustration. They have no choice but to perform.
4. Not ALL Animal Experiences Suck
Most holiday animal experiences suck. But there are good ones out there!
As someone who has regretfully done both unethical and ethical animal encounters, I can’t tell you enough how much better it is when you choose ethical!
Sitting on a young elephants back, watching a mahout stabs it repeatedly with a bull hook, is just incomparable to watching a free elephant calf playing, with his mother and nannies running after him.
That nagging guilt is replaced with pure joy:
5. Make Sure YOUR Animal Experience Won’t Suck
If you’ve found an amazing new animal experience, but you’re not sure how ethical it is, there’s a ridiculously easy way to find out!
Google “Experience Name Abuse”.
You’ll be surprised what comes up.
It’s caught me out a couple of times when I was convinced experiences were 100% ethical.
YOU CAN HELP PERFORMING ANIMALS
The animal entertainment industry exists for no reason other than making profit. And for years we’ve accepted it, because we want to get up close to our favourite animals. We believe that they are performing because they really do love us. But it’s not true, and it’s not fair.
If we really love these animals so much, we should give them back their freedom and leave them to just be wild.
Want to be a more responsible traveler?
Tiny changes can make a huge difference
Tips to help both animals and people