Tag Archives: animal cruelty

How to see animals while travelling without causing them harm

Every time you travel to a new location you want to see everything that there is to see about this new and exciting place, which not only includes the breathtaking views, cultural experiences, but also the local animals.

We’ve written about the harm that can be unintentionally caused by the popular tourist attractions of elephant riding, taking selfies with tigers, and the dog meat trade in Asia, but how can you, as an educated traveller see animals without causing them harm?

Do your research

Before you visit a country, go online and search for animal sanctuaries or conservation programs in the areas that you will be travelling.

Once you’ve found a few places that you would like to go to, it’s time to delve a bit deeper. Go to their website and see how they’re funded, how the animals are interacted with by visitors, and if they even allow visitors. Due to the rise of eco-tourism and the rising worldwide awareness of the perils of animal tourism, many places are labelling themselves as conservations or sanctuaries even if they are not! So how can you tell the difference?

A good indication of a place to avoid:

  • The venue allows visitors in the animal enclosures
  • Visitors are encouraged to take selfies
  • Visitors are encouraged to interact closely with the animals
  • Animals are kept in small cages or enclosures
  • There is no transparent history or record of the venue

Places you can visit

The Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, operated by our charity partner Animals Asia, is not open to the public on a daily basis. They operate Open Day guided tours for supporters on specific days each month. You can see their Open Day Schedule here. They also host Open Days at their China Moon Bear Sanctuary, see their schedule here.

You can also visit Edgar’s Mission in Victoria for a domestic/farm animal experience. See their visitation guidelines here.


Some conservations and sanctuaries have volunteer programs that you can take part in, especially for those who have animal experience, are a vet tech, studying in an animal-related field, or a qualified animal carer.

Many of these amazing organisations are run solely off of donations and benefit greatly from a good volunteer base.

Our charity partner, Soi Dog, welcome volunteers to assist in socialising and caring for the rescued cats and pups at their Phuket shelter. Soi Dog recommend that volunteers spend a month or longer at the shelter because it enables the formation of a closer relationship with the animals. You can also volunteer by giving tours of the shelter and talking with visitors. You can sign the Welfare Protection pledge here.

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Take a stance against one of the cruelest trades in the world

*Just to let you know, this article contains images that might upset some readers

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘dog’? Man’s best friend? Insanely loveable and cute fluff balls? Family? What about … food? Probably not. In fact, thinking about dogs as food might make you feel queasy or upset. Here in Australia and in most countries, we would never ever think about eating Fido. Yet in a lot of Asian countries, dog meat is readily available and consumed. The worst part? The conditions under which the dogs are transported and slaughtered are completely barbaric and inhumane. Every year tens of thousands of dogs are inhumanely transported from Thailand to neighbouring countries, and many die from suffocation before they get there. Unfortunately, these are the lucky ones. The dogs that are still alive are not humanely killed and are often tortured for hours before being skinned alive. It’s believed the pain inflicted on the dogs leads to a more tender cut of meat.

Since it’s acceptable to eat meat in many Asian countries, the dog meat trade lives on. But what also perpetuates this cruel trade is tourism. Traveling abroad is a time for experimenting, especially with food. When in Ireland, you eat haggis. When in Australia, you eat a meat pie. When in Spain, you eat chorizo. When in Asia? A lot of people eat dogs. This has to stop. More often than not, tourists don’t realise the sheer horror and cruelty that takes place in order to get that dog meat on their plate.

The dog meat trade is vicious and inhumane and we won’t stand for it. So now that you know…what can you do about it?

Spread the word!

Start by sharing this story. Tell your parents, tell your friends, tell your aunt and tell the postman. Keep spreading the word about how horrific the dog meat trade is and ensure tourists do not eat or try dog meat when they’re in Asia.

soi dog 1

Donate / sponsor a dog

Incredible not-for-profits (including our charity partner Soi Dog) are working tirelessly on the ground to rescue dogs and cats who are victims of the dog meat trade. Soi Dog was created with a mission to humanely reduce the stray population of animals through a programme of mass sterilisation, to provide medical treatment for the sick and injured, and to shelter and adopt; all being humane welfare options the animals had never had access to before. Through foundations like Soi Dog, you are able to sponsor a dog or cat, which pays for their urgent treatment and care until they are ready to be adopted.

Our other amazing charity partner Animals Asia  are also working hard to end the dog meat trade. You can donate to help their plight here.

Humane Society International are also working with local organisations in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and China to raise awareness of the horrible dog meat trade flourishing in these countries.  They participate in raids on trucks crammed with dogs headed for slaughter as well as provide funding to train officials to improve the enforcement of laws and support care for animals. Check out their work and donate here.

“My name is Sylvestor and my story begins when I was grabbed from the street and crushed into a cage with many other dogs. We were then driven away on a truck to cross the Thai border. I could not understand why I was in this cage and why these people were doing this to me. I was terrified and so were all the other dogs crushed into the cages.

I could hear the younger dogs crying with fear as we travelled through the night, the older dogs unable to cope with the stress and heat during the day. Many died as we drove towards the border – I was beginning to give up too.

I awoke to the rattling of cages and the truck stopping abruptly. All the cages were taken off and we were released and put into a big truck and taken to a shelter in northern Thailand. This is where I live now with so many other other rescued dogs.”


Adopt a dog

The rescued dogs and cats at Soi Dog are often put up for adoption once they have been properly healed. Giving these animals a loving home and effectually providing Soi Dog with more resources to take in more dogs and cats is one of the best things you can do. In Australia, it’s quite difficult and very expensive to adopt the dogs and cats from Soi Dog, mainly due to our strict quarantine laws. However, adopting from the UK, US, Canada and Europe is easier and cheaper.

soi dog

Volunteer your time

If you’re ever in Phuket, Thailand, consider visiting the Soi Dog shelter. The main role of volunteers is to socialise and walk the dogs, and socialise the cats and puppies. Many of the animals Soi Dog rescues are afraid of humans due to the brutal treatment they received before being rescued, so for the dogs and cats to be adopted, they need to be taught how to trust people. Soi Dog recommend that volunteers spend a month or longer at the shelter because it enables the formation of a closer relationship with the animals. You can also volunteer by giving tours of the shelter and talking with visitors.

There’s also the not-for-profit Last Chance for Animals (LCA) who are dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation through education, investigations, legislation, and media attention. Check out their amazing work here.

soi dog 3
soi dog 2

A big thanks to our friends at the Soi Dog Foundation for supplying the pictures. 

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Why we don’t ride elephants
(and you shouldn’t either)

At Inspired Adventures, we are constantly striving to find a voice for the voiceless, namely through working with amazing charities across the globe who have the same goal. And, who are more voiceless than the wonderful and enchanting animals that inhabit this earth alongside us?

Animal welfare is certainly close to our heart, and as a responsible and ethically minded organisation, we have recently partnered with the incredible World Animal Protection not only signing their pledge to end animal cruelty but also making a ‘Statement of Intent’ which ensures there is no captive wildlife entertainment in our adventures.

Many people who travel wish to help animals and will often seek out sanctuaries or conservations on their travels where they can make a difference to disadvantaged animals. Unfortunately, this philanthropic-minded approach has seen many ‘attractions’ open (namely in Asia and Africa) that are marketed to travellers as animal ‘conservations.’ Usually, this is not the case.

One form of animal cruelty that is abundant and that many people aren’t aware of is elephant riding. It seems like such a harmless and cultural thing to do when you visit Asia or Africa, yet every time someone takes an elephant ride, it’s providing fuel for this practice to continue.

You’re probably thinking: what’s so bad about riding an elephant? See for yourself.

The “crush” process

Truly wild elephants would never let a human ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, from the time it’s a baby, it undergoes a gruelling “crush” process. This breaking of the spirit involves taking a young elephant (most times captured from the wild) who is then confined to a small wooden cage. Whilst in the cage, the elephant’s legs are shackled so it can’t move, and then ritually beaten with bamboo-topped nails, bloodied with bull hooks and deprived of food and water. Here, they learn basic commands too. By the end of this process, the baby elephant is known as “broken”.

A life lived in captivity

Many of the elephants are born and bred in captivity. From the time they can walk, the baby elephants are chained to the older elephants during treks, where they must keep the same pace, which can cause them serious harm. When they aren’t trekking, they are often tied up in chains and go without adequate food and water. If you’ve ever visited a trekking camp and seen the elephants swaying or bobbing their heads, it’s actually a sign of serious psychological stress.

The elephants’ health

Despite being huge animals, an elephant’s spine cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries. Having large amounts of weight on their back aside, the actual chair placed on their backs cause rubbing, which in turn causes blisters which can get infected. Not to mention the wear and tear on the elephants’ feet, which can lead to long-term injuries.

Elephants have feelings too

Did you know? Elephants are a lot like us. They socialise, have families and friends and can feel emotions. They feel pain and heartache and elephants living in trekking camps don’t get that contact with other elephants they need, just as humans need social interaction. And, baby elephants being ripped away from their mothers can cause distressing psychological damage from a young age.

The issues are far from simple, but as with many things, knowledge is power. So now you know, what can you do about?

For starters, spread the word! Share this article. Let your friends and family know. Also, and this is so simple, but don’t partake in elephant riding or animal interactions that you’re unsure about. If you want to experience animals on your travels then make sure you do your research before you go. There are plenty of real conservation projects that allow you to interact with animals without harming them.

How to recognise an elephant-friendly tourist venue

  1. Elephants aren’t used for entertainment: no rides, activities, shows or any other inappropriate public display.
  2. The venue has a transparent record
  3. No captive breeding is permitted: breeding takes attention away from the important task of rescuing or caring for the elephants.
  4. No commercial trade of elephants: venues acquire elephants via confiscations, donations or as part of an alternative livelihood initiative)
  5. No aversive conditioning is used: Elephants are handled humanely in all situations.
  6. They comply with international husbandry standards
  7. The elephants live in a (semi-)wild environment: the environment allows for social interaction in natural groupings, adequate movement and natural foraging.
  8. Appropriate and accurate education is provided: venues educate their visitors with the aim of raising awareness of animal welfare concerns

Huge thanks to our friends over at World Animal Protection on the best ways to recognise an elephant-friendly tourist venue.

What can I do?

You can also sign World Animal Protections’ pledge to stop the cruelty and abuse suffered by wild animals used for entertainment.

Because demand for the animal entertainment industry is so high, these animals continue to be used and abused for profit in ever increasing numbers. Your signature will help by reducing the demand for animals in entertainment in the countries where you holiday.

We’ve done it! Inspired Adventures recently signed the pledge and a Statement of Intent to ensure there is no captive wildlife entertainment in our adventures.

Feeling inspired to make a difference for the voiceless?

Photo credits: World Animal Protection

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