The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the world’s largest alliance of animal welfare organizations, just launched a new component to its animal rights advocacy work, a new website called Compassionate Travel.
Compassionate Travel lists travel dos and don’ts and functions as a clearinghouse for international volunteer opportunities with an animal-welfare focus.
To make sure your next trip is animal-friendly, please heed some or all of the following:
- Visit nature reserves and national parks instead of petting zoos and roadside attractions.
- Skip the marine park and take a dolphin- or whale-watching cruise instead.
- Boycott bullfights and other festivals that use animals in potentially exploitive ways.
- Support the local humane society or shelter where you’re traveling. Even donations of used towels and dog or cat food are helpful.
- Avoid animal rides or taxis.
- Don’t pose for a photo with a wild animal; it’s likely they’ve been drugged to ensure their docility.
- Resist the temptation to go swimming with the dolphins; studies have shown that people swimming with dolphins can disrupt their normal feeding, resting, and nursing behaviors.
- Report any inhumane treatment of animals you may witness to the local humane society.
- Don’t purchase souvenirs made of coral, ivory, fur, leather, horns, tortoise shells, or even some traditional Asian medicines made from threatened species.
- Don’t eat bush meat or consume reptile eggs. In the U.S. and EU, many meats are labeled as free-range or that they’ve been raised in a cruelty-free environment. In other nations, it’s sometimes tougher to gauge the origin of your dinner. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and go vegetarian.
- You can even plan an animal-friendly trip. Take a volunteer vacation with an organization listed on the Compassionate Travel site. Some are free, some costly. Some last one day, others are multi-month projects. You can care for sick Aruban donkeys, feed koalas in Australia, lend a hand at a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica, or help rehabilitate once captive bears in Romania among many other exciting, typically roll-up-your-sleeves adventures.
One of the points made by WSPA on its Compassionate Travel site that struck a chord with me was that travelers shouldn’t allow respect for the culture of others to justify cruelty. We’re all open-minded, culturally sensitive travelers, eager to try new things, novel tastes, and unique, authentic experiences. How do we maintain the delicate balance of not being overly ethnocentric in our ethics so to still keep our minds wide open while, at the same time, being sure we don’t accidentally support businesses or organizations that treat animals cruelly? Give us your comments below.