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Tips to avoid animal exploitation whilst on holiday

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The RSPCA has highlighted the dangers of activities such as pictures with big cats

An animal welfare charity has issued guidance on responsible wildlife tourism.

As part of World Responsible Tourism Day, the RSPCA is highlighting animal exploitation around the globe.

With more and more students opting for gap years and round-the-world trips, and off-the-beaten-track destinations becoming much more accessible for holiday-goers and honeymooners, there is a boom in the number of people travelling abroad.

Over the years RSPCA International has received hundreds of complaints from tourists, who have seen animals cruelly exploited. The charity has said the choices people make while travelling can help the RSPCA make a significant difference to animals all over the world.

Paul Littlefair, head of the international department at the RSPCA, said: “Riding an elephant, swimming with dolphins, cuddling a tiger cub, or taking a picture with a monkey may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience but all of these can have very serious animal welfare and safety risks for tourists.

“We welcome World Responsible Tourism Day to raise awareness of how tourists can help tackle animal cruelty. We work in many countries throughout the world to prevent animal cruelty and tourism can also play a big part in tackling this. If there is a demand for activities like these and money to be made then cruel practices will continue.

“It’s important to research the activities you are taking part in first and if you are in any doubt, look for ethical alternatives.”

See below for the charity’s guidance on interacting with animals while on holiday.

Tips for not aiding animal welfare

Tips to avoid animal exploitation whilst on holiday


Selfies with a monkey – photographers asking for money may walk around the streets or on the beach offering pictures with a baby chimp or monkey. They may look cute but these animals are usually taken illegally as babies from the wild to be used by photographers.

Animal souvenirs – many markets and stalls may sell caged birds and other small animals. Snake or scorpion wine may well be made from an animal stolen from the wild and drowned in alcohol. If you’re concerned it might be real, it probably is.

Cuddling big cats – lions and tigers are wild animals and if they allow you to get close to them it will usually be because they have been sedated with drugs to make them easier to handle.

Riding elephants – elephant riding plays a huge part in many tourist attractions and activities in Asia but the animals can be kept in horrible conditions when they are not ferrying tourists around. Elephants are often illegally captured for sale to the tourism industry

Getting in the saddle – avoid riding donkeys, horses, or camels if you suspect any form of cruelty

Running with bulls – stay away from bullfighting at all costs. This is big business in Spain and elsewhere, and the money from tourists helps this cruelty to continue.

Catching waves with a dolphin – swimming with dolphins may seem like a fantastic idea but in reality they often have restrictive space and can find swimming with people all day very stressful.


Pack your binoculars and snorkel – you may not need to look very far to see wildlife like exotic birds and fish without straying far from your sun lounger.

Get to know nature – it’s possible to see some amazing wild animals in their natural habitat. Give them the respect they deserve by watching at a safe distance, for example at a nature reserve, and quiz tour operators about what codes of conduct they abide by to ensure animals aren’t negatively affected by tourists.

Volunteer – there are conservation projects around the globe which aim to preserve and promote animals and their habitats. You may want to research the possibility of a volunteering trip ensuring that it is for an ethical and effective organisation.

Get active – find a walking or jogging route and put on your trainers. Wildlife is often more active in the morning and evening when it’s cooler, the perfect time to take a hike.

Grab a camera – animals which seem exotic to us may be pretty common in another country and give a great opportunity to capture some amazing memories on film, at a safe distance.

Ask questions – don’t be afraid to ask how animals are being cared for, where meat in your dinner comes from and if it is endangered.

Give a little – there are ways that you can help animals in other countries by donating to a local animal welfare charity or a stray dogs or cats initiative which provides veterinary care and neutering.

Speak out – if you see animals being treated cruelly whilst travelling abroad then speak out.