Animal Tourist Attractions to Avoid While on Vacation

Tourist activities such as riding elephants or swimming with dolphins have become very popular. These experiences, however, exploit and can even harm the wildlife for the amusement of tourists. To plan a humane, vegan travel experience, you should avoid these all-too-common, cruel animal tourist attractions.

Elephant rides

Pictures of people riding elephants may look amazing on Instagram, but the reality behind this activity is truly horrible. These elephants are taken from their families at a young age. Because elephants form strong emotional bonds, this act alone is traumatic and heartbreaking for them. They are then forced to undergo a training process called “the crush,” which involves physical restraint, starvation, and being stabbed repeatedly with bullhooks. Elephant rides are truly one of the cruelest forms of animal tourism, and you should avoid them at all costs.

Sea turtle interactions

While it may seem harmless, simply holding a sea turtle is a very stressful experience for the animal and can cause long-term damage. The anxiety turtles feel when they’re being held weakens their immune system and makes them more susceptible to diseases. In a panic, they may also flap their fins wildly to escape, which can lead to fractures or muscle strains. If you’re snorkeling or scuba diving, you should always refrain from touching, catching, or holding sea turtles to avoid these negative effects.

Dolphin shows

Whether they’re captured in the wild or bred in captivity, show dolphins are forced to lead restrictive, unnatural lives. Because they’re kept in small tanks rather than allowed to roam the massive open ocean, show dolphins often experience psychosis and depression. This mental and emotional stress, combined with poor living conditions, frequently results in deadly disease and infection. In certain cases, captive dolphins have even been suspected of committing suicide.

Dancing monkeys

In some countries, you may find monkeys performing on the street. These monkeys often exhibit human-like behaviors, dancing and doing tricks. For them to behave in this way, they’re often captured at a young age when they’re the most impressionable. As a result, they spend most of their lives performing for the profit of their trainers and are kept on short chains and in small cages.

Animal photo ops

Like most performance animals, lions and tigers that are forced to act as props in tourist photos are separated from their mothers when they’re young. When they aren’t being gawked at by strangers for hours on end, they’re often chained up or kept in small, desolate cages. Once they’re too large to be held, they’re then exploited for walking tours. When being trained to walk safely among tourists, they may be prodded or beaten. If they’re lucky, they’ll spend the rest of their lives in captivity. If not, they may be sold to the canned trophy hunting industry, where they’ll be killed for entertainment.

The best way to have a cruelty-free wildlife experience while on vacation is to observe animals in their natural environments. Humane animal experiences include bird watching, scuba diving, or hiking through a national park—these activities don’t involve interacting or interfering with the wildlife. If an animal is being forced to interact with you or to perform in any way, you should avoid the activity.