Animal Exploitation and How to Avoid it

I have been wanting to write this blog post for a while, but I have always deemed it to be emotionally exhausting as animal exploitation is horrifying, and I cannot understand why anyone would deem it acceptable. I will mainly be focusing on activities tourists do while abroad, such as camel/elephant rides etc.

I will not be putting insensitive photos due to the nature of this post, however there may be some photos that are deemed uncomfortable

I also think this is a very important message so I implore you to spread the word, and please contact me with any questions or ask any in the comment box.

What is Animal Exploitation?

In the simplest terms, animal exploitation in the suffering of animals for the benefit people. It is a form of animal cruelty and can be done in many different ways such as animal testing to farming to cub petting and trophy hunting.

A lot of places are not up front about how their animals are treated, so it is worth looking into before purchasing make up or planning your next trip.

Animal Needs

In order to help you understand what animal welfare is, there is an act of legislation called Animal Welfare Act 2006, which states that animals have the needs of:

  1. The need for a suitable environment (clean, large enough etc)
  2. The need for a suitable diet (including food and water)
  3. The need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals (depending on the species, some need to be solitary, like tigers, or kept in groups, like monkeys)
  4. The need to exhibit natural behaviours (communicating, grooming, playing, hunting)
  5. The need to be free from pain, injury, suffering and disease

Riding Exotic Animals

A very common form of animal exploitation is done by riding. Everyone wants to ride an elephant, don’t they? Or a camel, or even a donkey. However, most people do not realise HOW they train these animals to get ridden. It is not in these animal’s nature to have a human climb on top of them, so cruel methods are put into practice for the safety of humans and for the money.

Elephant riding - one form of animal exploitation.
An Asian elephant saddled up and ready to take people for a ride. The bamboo from to the right of the frame is used to help people climb aboard. Taken in Thailand.

Without going into detail, these animals are taken from their mother at a very young, and dangerous age, and abused into submission. If they take too long to become submissive or become too aggressive for handling, they usually are killed.

Not only is the training abusive to the animal, so is the riding equipment, such as the saddle which causes sores and pain. These animals are also kept in limited social groups and not always provided the correct diet – all of which are not providing them with their basic needs.

Walking a Wolf

I have had many an argument that Wolf Walking is not cruel because ‘they’re getting exercised and are with other wolves’. However, if you think of it from a natural point of view, wolves walk miles every day so they cannot get nearly enough exercise that they require and they live in packs, not just with a couple of other wolves.

Once again, in order to be submissive, these animals are removed from their mothers at such a young age.

I have also been told that ‘they’re doing it for educational purposes, I learned a lot about wolves’. This is one of those instances when people don’t realise they are contributing to the exploitation industry. This is not the case! I then proceeded to ask about what this person learned in regard to the conservation of wolves – what are they doing to help? Where was their money going? How were the wolves treated when not being walked? They were stumped.

Playing with Cubs

This form of exploitation pulls at my heart strings, and I think this is the type of issue is something most people are familiar with. Lions, and other big cats, are removed from their mothers and placed in cages in which people can go into and cuddle and play with them.

Not only does this affect them as cubs since they lack grooming from their mothers, and comfort and safety as well, this also affects their adulthood. Once a cub becomes too big and dangerous, they are put into isolated cages for the rest of their lives. People can then pay to trophy hunt these animals.

Other Forms of Exploitation

It can be very hard to know what is helping and what is hurting. Animal exploitation can be subtle so you have to ask the right questions. It can be in the form of:

  • Petting zoos
  • Zoo farms
  • Photography sessions with exotic animals
  • Buying ivory products or skin
  • Marine parks
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • Circuses or animal shows

How to Avoid It

Now that you know what it looks like, it makes it a lot easier to avoid. However, if you are unsure then be sure to ask lots of questions before paying and participating.

What is the company doing to help their wild counterparts? Where is your money going – to the conservation or the owners? How are these animals treated when not being in human company? How did these animals get here? Who benefits most from this interaction? Is it necessary – can people be educated in different ways?

Buying animal products also helps to support the animal trade so please try to avoid this as well. The product may be cheap and small, but it is not worth the life of an animal.

If you ever see any form of animal exploitation, report it! You can report it to authorities or to companies such as PETA who will try and help. If you are unsure about reporting, then please get in contact with me and I will be happy to help.

Lets end this cruel trade.

22 thoughts on “Animal Exploitation and How to Avoid it

  1. This is such an important post. Animal mistreatment is definitely widespread, and I think people just tend to assume that people profiting off of it are treating the animals properly. I think there’s been a lot of improvement, especially with perceptions about riding animals, but clearly there is still a lot more work to do. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I agree with what you wrote for the most part. Riding elephants is just cruel and no wild animals should ever be taken away from its family or natural environment. But I am not that sure when it comes to camels and donkeys if they are taken care of according to their needs and do not have to carry to much weight. I think the important question is if a practice harms an animal or not.

    However I do not agree with the Peta part. I’d rather lobby the government myself than to involve them as I disagree with a lot of things they do.

  3. I am in agreement, I am not a proponent of using or seeing animals for our enjoyment. The only place we should see them is in their natural habitat. As well I am vegetarian for the reason of animal treatment.

  4. YES! I am totally with you on this. Did you see the recent article by National Geographic? It is pretty horrible to read as it shows how even some ethical sounding animal sanctuaries are also really bad/exploitative to animals. The example was in Thailand where the same elephants give rides for tourists at one location, then go to the “sanctuary” so western tourists can see them at another location.

    The only thing I disagree about is PETA. I am not a big fan of them as they kill so many animals. I like to support organisations that re-home cats/dogs rather than killing them.

  5. Thank you for bringing this important topic to the forefront of discussion. The more people who recognize animal exploitation, the more likely is that we can put an end to it.

  6. So sad. Thanks for taking the time to write this important post. Definitely something every traveler should be conscious of while they move through the world.

  7. Thank you for highlighting this and it’s good to see that more and more people are now focusing on understanding when animals are being exploited for tourism purposes. I always research when I am going to be involved in any such activity if it is legit and being done without any cruelty. Having said that, things like riding elephants, or walking wolves or even petting lion or tiger cubs isn’t something I indulge in because of the fact that these animals aren’t meant for our entertainment!

  8. I agree that it’s so important for people to realize that some animal-based tourism is exploitative and sometimes cruel. When I was a kid, I always thought it would be amazing to ride an elephant. Back then, I don’t think many people outside of that industry knew about how terribly these poor animals are treated in order to get them to the point that they can carry riders. Getting the word out is so crucial. Tourists essentially vote with their money, so spending that money elsewhere can help to end these abusive practices.

  9. I always hate seeing animals like that. I never knew that walking with wolf was a thing. Anyway, I prefer seeing animals in safaris as they are in their natural habitat like they should.

  10. As travelers, I think this topic is so important! I think it’s easy for tourists to overlook the negative consequences because some of these things might be a “bucket list” experience 🙁

    1. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get this message out there. Animals are fascinating and people want to be near them and experience them and don’t realise how detrimental it can be. It’s incredibly sad but I’m hoping I can educate people through these posts

  11. They all sound horrible. It makes you question whether anyone should have any pets or we should outlaw farms and such. What is the line?

    1. Exploitation can be done in many forms, such as farming. In regards to pets, it’s a little blurry since we have put them in a position that they need us. However, I’m a vegan simply for the fact that I don’t agree with farming ethics

  12. Thank you so much for this! I had never even heard of walking with wolves! Isn’t it interesting how humans seemingly try to get back in touch with a lifestyle more closely related to nature, but, of course, are doing it a completely unnatural way?

  13. Walking with wolves is something I’ve never heard of and sounds as terrible and unnatural as any other animal exploitation practise. Thanks for adding a (at least for me) new insight to animal cruelty, I really believe we should all be aware and try to keep ourselves educated in the matter.

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