THE STAR/ DPA – From taking selfies with a tiger to riding a camel – kids love holiday activities that involve animals.
But animal rights organisations warn that parents should be critical when it comes to such activities, as the animal’s physical welfare is often neglected.
While such activities seem fun and harmless, they are often extremely stressful for the animals and in some cases amount to animal cruelty, according to the German animal welfare group Vier Pfoten (Four Paws).
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), animals used in tourist attractions are “often kept under inappropriate conditions, denied basic necessities (eg appropriate food, water and shelter) and/or are subjected to inhumane handling and training.”
Such attractions include bullfights and rodeos, as well as more common and seemingly harmless activities like circus shows or performances at marine parks, and “riding exotic species or non-domesticated animals”, for example, elephants and ostriches.
Vier Pfoten also particularly warns against sightseeing-carriage rides in city centres, where noise and traffic distress the horses, which often have to work for 10 hours without sufficient breaks.
Both organisations also strongly reject activities involving wild animals like feeding them or swimming with dolphins, as the animals should be observed at a maximum distance in their natural habitat, as done at national parks and rescue centres for endangered species.
When visiting rescue centres, tourists should make sure that animal protection and sustainability are the highest priority at the facility, according to Vier Pfoten. Wildlife parks that offer shows or even interaction with wild animals should best be avoided. RSPCA particularly warns against taking selfies with animals, as the high demand for them fuels illegal trade, while taking selfies with wild animals on your own can cause them immense stress.
Of course, engaging with animals is still a valuable experience, especially for children, and there are responsible options to do so.
In addition to rescue centres, RSPCA lists wildlife viewing, riding domestic animals and “good” zoos, meaning licensed and non-profit with adequate welfare, as “appropriate” activities involving animals.