to ride or not to ride

boy with donkeyCamel rides through the desert in India, elephant rides in Thailand, pony carts in Luxor and donkey rides to the Valley of the Kings.  These a just a few of the many animal riding opportunities offered as part of the experience in tourism destinations.  But is it cruel for the animals?  Or is it actually a good thing because your payment is helping fund the handlers and enable them to better care for the animals? 

We asked animal welfare organisations for their views on animal riding…

Our friends at WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, ask travellers to be wary of taking animal rides.  Animals may be poorly fed and given no shelter from the elements or access to water. Some may be drugged or beaten to ensure they remain submissive.  WSPA advises that you check the reputation of the operators and check the conditions of the animals carefully before deciding to ride.  The animals should look well fed, their coats should be in good condition without sores and their handlers should not be beating them.

Help in Suffering in India are involved with the welfare of elephants used for riding up to Amber Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan.   They tell us: ‘An elephant needs to be bathed every day for about an hour to keep skin healthy and to bond with mahout. They need shade to avoid sunburn and they need to ingest about 200-250 litres of water a day, otherwise they may get an impacted bowel.  Check the elephants for marks and sores which may indicate they are being beaten with an ankush (elephant hook).’

At Animal Care in Egypt (ACE), based in Luxor, they recommend looking a donkey or horse over to see that it hasn’t been subjected to ‘firing’.  This means burning with red hot metal to various parts of a horse’s or donkey’s body, most often the legs.  The practitioners believe this ‘traditional healing’ method will make the animal ‘strong’.  In reality it is pure torture.  ACE say the best cures usually involve good diet, humane treatment and regular worming.

Intrepid Travel works to ensure that all animal rides offered on trips are operated following the best practices for animal welfare.

The Intrepid Foundation is pleased to support WSPA through the Intrepid Perpetual support fund and assist other animal-focused services via the Community Projects Fund.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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