How to tell if an animal is being mistreated: 5 simple questions to ask yourself


Experiencing wild animals can be such a fabulous highlight of your travel experience. However, wild animals used in entertainment may be experiencing unseen cruelty or abuse. How would you know? How could you help?

Many wild animals are taken from their natural environments in the wild, to be exploited for entertainment and profit. They might be offered for shows, for rides, for posing for photos – or you might be offered their parts or by-products made into dining delicacies or souvenirs. Sometimes these experiences may be offered up under the façade of being for ‘conservation’. So how do you judge what’s ethical – versus downright cruelty and exploitation?

Intrepid’s friends at World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for the Protection of Animals) offer us the following five questions to consider:

1. Does the animal have food and water?

Many wild animals used to entertain tourists, like elephants and monkeys, are forced to work long hours with limited access to fresh water and food. They may suffer heat stress, exhaustion and dehydration.

2. Is there rest and shelter for the animals?

Wild animals used to entertain tourists have often been taken from their natural environments. They may be kept in enclosures with little or no protection from harsh weather, and may not be given adequate rest.

3. Is this animal in pain and suffering?

Many captive animals may be suffering from poor nutrition and health, caused by an inadequate diet or access to little or no veterinary care. Some animals may have their teeth pulled or claws clipped, causing terrible suffering.

4. Is what you’re seeing ‘natural behaviour’?

Captive animals are often taken from their families. Many animals have complex social structures that cannot be recreated in captivity. These animals are exploited for entertainment, and forced to perform unnatural behaviours.

5. Are the animals in distress?

Performing wild animals in zoos, shows and circuses often suffer from high stress levels and psychological trauma caused by close confinement, inadequate conditions and cruel training methods. It’s the cruelty you don’t see that can be the most distressing.

What now?

Now you are armed with this knowledge, you can:
– Make positive choices to support tourism that does not exploit wild animals.
– Share this knowledge and speak up. Consider politely voicing any concerns to the appropriate tourism authorities.
– Help support World Animal Protection through The Intrepid Foundation. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$400,000 in each financial year and a maximum of AU$5,000 per donor in each financial year.

PHOTO: Sumatran tiger

Are you passionate about animal welfare and like to know more? Pledge your support to help stop the cruelty and abuse suffered by wildlife in entertainment, and receive ‘Your guide to being animal friendly on holiday’. It will take you less than 30 seconds to pledge your support.

Pledge your support via one of the following links:
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About the author'
Jane Crouch - Jane is a responsible business guru who writes about all aspects of how travel can bring positive environmental, social and economic benefits. Informed through travel on seven continents, leading Intrepid trips through SE Asia, work in outdoor education, energy conservation, international development, philanthropy and climate change action, plus a big love of walking, mountains and world music.

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