“They are wild animals, not entertainers” The welfare consequences of wildlife-linked tourist attractions. Pete the Vet Podcast on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

To listen to this week’s podcast follow the link at the foot of this page.

Wildlife-linked tourist attractions

Many people love animals, and when they go on holidays, they often come across charming situations involving animals, and they enjoy engaging with them. They often don’t realise that they are inadvertently contributing to animal cruelty. The leading organisation campaigning on this important topic has been World Animal Protection. ​World Animal Protection have persuaded TripAdvisor and Viator to stop taking bookings for entertainment involving unethical animal experiences: with these services, you can no longer book activities where you come into direct contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.

Examples of unethical animal entertainment include:

  • Elephants – elephant rides, feeding elephants, being an elephant mahout for a day and more.
    Elephant riding is one of the world’s cruelest forms of wildlife tourist entertainment. Baby elephants are often taken from their mothers when young. They are beaten, and endure ongoing physical and psychological abuse during training to make them submissive enough to spend the rest of their long lives chained and giving rides to tourists.​ ​T​he best place to see an elephant is in the wild or at a genuine elephant sanctuary.
    World Animal Protection investigated conditions endured by 2,923 elephants at tourist venues in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Laos and Cambodia, and found that 77% of them were treated appallingly.
  • ​​Dancing bears​ and monkeys​​.​ When you see these animals in chains, with their handlers holding sticks, the issues are obvious
  • ​Wildlilfe selfies. From pics with lion cubs in Africa to sloths and pink river dolphins in the Amazon, most tourists​ love selfie photos with wildlife. But if they knew about the suffering these animals endure for this type of photo opportunity, they’d put their phones and cameras away. ​World Animal Protection have persuaded 250,000 animal-lovers ​to ​sign up to ​their Wildlife Selfie Cod​e.​
    ​Furthermore, they persuaded ​Instagram ​to launch a new ‘wildlife warning’ page. When Instagram users search for hashtags like #koalaselfie, #elephantride and #slothselfie, a message pops up, informing them about the animal suffering behind the photos. If you’re going on holiday, remember the Wildlife Selfie Code. Only take photos if you’re a safe distance from an animal, they can move freely, and they’re in their natural home.
  • T​igers A recent study showed a 33% increase in the number of tigers kept at tourist entertainment facilities over a five-year period.
    The main welfare concerns witnessed at the venues by investigators include:
    + Tiger cubs cruelly separated from their mothers, two to three weeks after they are born.
    + Young cubs used as photo props with tourists; mishandled hundreds of times a day, which can lead to stress and injury.
    + Tigers being punished to stop aggressive, unwanted behavior. One staff member told our researchers that starvation is used to punish the tigers when they make a ‘mistake’.
    + Most tigers were housed in small, concrete cages or barren enclosures with limited access to fresh water.
  • ​Swimming with dolphins​
    ​Swim-with-the-dolphin (SWTD) programs can be found all over the world, but they’ve become exceptionally popular in the Caribbean in the past decade or so. A former dolphin trainer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has spoken about how these programs are inherently problematic – apart from the fact that cetaceans simply do not belong in captivity.​ During capture, individual dolphins may become entangled in the capture nets and suffocate or suffer stress-related conditions associated with the trauma of capture. In addition, captures from the wild can negatively impact already depleted dolphin populations by removing breeding (or otherwise important) members from the group.
    The mortality rate of captured bottlenose dolphins is dramatically increased during capture and transport. Furthermore, at the swim with dolphin venues, they are forced to swim in small pens all day long. They were also under extreme pressure to perform the same motions, the same speech, the same signals over and over. They get frustrated , and this is often not obvious to tourists, but to experts, it’s obvious.
  • Circuses. It’s now illegal to have wildlife in circuses in Ireland, and for the same welfare reasons, people shouldn’t visit circuses that included wildlife
  • Zoos overseas: from appalling living conditions to acts of cruelty like the feeding of live calves to lions in Chinese zoos, it’s best to avoid these.

Questions about pets from listeners

The following questions were answered by Pete on air: listen to the podcast to hear the answers.

  • My 8 year old male cat has started scratching the corners of a 3 piece suite even though there is a scratching post in the same room. Do you have any suggestions how to discourage him from scratching the furniture so that he will use the scratching post instead?
  • We have a 6 month old cat he is a very lively pet but recently he started jumping from the floor up to my face, and my children’s faces. I know he is just playing but so worried about getting scratched in the eye and my little boy already has a few cuts on his face. It is like he has this mad half hour and he goes bonkers around the house. Can I train my cat not to do this, I feel it just smirks at me when I give out to him. Lucy
  • My 11 year old cat had her thyroid glands removed last September, she had been very underweight but since her surgery she’s becoming overweight despite only eating about a quarter of what she used to, she’s a fussy eater and eats both wet and dry food, what’s the best food to give her to prevent her putting on any more weight thanks Adi
  • I have a 12 year old English Setter with arthritis in his back legs. The Vet just has him on pain killers “Carprieve”. Is there anything else that can be done for him? Desmond.
  • Hoping to get a family dog over the summer. One of the breeds that we like is a Miniature German Schnauzer. Would it make a suitable pet for family with 9 and 6 year old? Do they have any known health issues?
  • I was asking the gardening expert a last week about our lawn that’s been destroyed by our dog’s urine. Does Pete know of any products that work? We’ve tried lawn seed but to no avail.
  • My 4 year old male lab keeps biting his thumb nail, as if he is trying it pull it off. He is on hypoallergenic good already. Any ideas on what could be causing this please?

To listen to the podcast click on the link below.

You can also watch Pete doing a Facebook Live video question and answer session after the radio show.

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