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Holiday season and animal welfare: How to avoid tourist traps 

Many holiday attractions are connected to animal suffering.


Cape Town, 12 July 2017 – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” – that is indeed one of the best things about holidays. However, animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS urges holidaymakers to take  animal welfare into consideration when immersing yourself in foreign cultures, as there are often sadly issues of animal cruelty associated with many popular tourist activities.

“Some of the most popular tourist attractions, especially in exotic countries, offer rides on elephants, ponies, donkeys or camels. But we urge people to be careful when considering this as many of these animals are not kept in accordance with species-appropriate conditions and regulations. Sometimes the animals are exposed to the sun and the heat for the whole day without getting enough fresh water or shade,” FOUR PAWS Wild Animal expert Thomas Pietsch states. “It’s important to know that elephants in particular are often mistreated as babies to make them docile. The will of these animals is downright broken.”

Young animals and strays
Another animal welfare issue are so-called ‘petting farms’ with lion cubs, a common tourist attraction in South Africa. “Tourists are excited about petting a lion cub, but they don’t know that the cute cubs may eventually be declared available for the canned hunting industry, a particularly cruel practice of hunting”, Pietsch explains. There is an increasing number of places that offer photos with wild animals, especially baby animals. “The alarm bells should sound as soon as there is a possibility to take selfies or other pictures with, for example, bear cubs”, Pietsch warns. The animals are solely used for profit and their living conditions are often unacceptable.

In many southern countries, a high number of stray animals roam the streets. Animal lovers will think that there is nothing wrong with feeding the animals. However, the problem is that the animals get used to this food source very quickly. Once the holiday season is over and the tourists are gone, they won’t have a source of food anymore. Additionally, feeding stray animals causes the stray animal population to grow even faster. Thus, FOUR PAWS suggests that tourists support a local animal welfare shelter with a donation that will help them take proper care of the strays.
No-Go: Bullfighting & Co.

FOUR PAWS recommends to steer clear of sports or competition events involving animals. Either traditional bullfighting in Spain and Portugal or cruel dog, bear or rooster fights in other parts of the world. They all share the view that the audiences’ entertainment is based on the torment of animals. Prior to the bull fights, for instance, the animals are goaded deliberately. Means of aggravation include punching them in the kidney area, piercing their genitals with needles or the injection of drugs to confuse and disorient them. At the end the bull will be killed. Usually the animals die from choking on their own blood.

Alternative solutions
Thomas Pietsch suggests that animal loving tourists visit national parks or animal sanctuaries if they want to get closer to nature. In South Africa for example, FOUR PAWS runs LIONSROCK, a species-appropriate sanctuary for big cats that were rescued from zoos, circuses and inappropriate private keeping conditions. LIONSROCK also provides accommodation for tourists: (
Last but not least, Pietsch advises caution when buying souvenirs: “Many shops sell items made from ivory, turtle shell, exotic animal leather or coral. Buying such products adds to the danger of extinction of protected species.” Importing souvenirs made from endangered species is illegal and according to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is punishable by fines and even custodial sentences.