Tag Archives: animal welfare

A better life for man’s best friend

The reality of life for dogs in Thailand is that they are illegally traded for their meat. Soi Dog is a charity on a mission to end the dog meat trade for good. Often, a confronting experience can be enough to propel change to end a cruel and heartless industry. Our own Danny recently took on Soi Dog’s adventure challenge, and shares his experiences and how Soi Dog is working toward a better future for dogs in Asia.

Soi Dog
Soi Dog

Tell us about Soi Dog, the charity you were on this adventure for?

Soi Dog Foundation is a not-for-profit, organisation that helps homeless, neglected and abused dogs and cats of Asia, works to end the dog meat trade throughout the region, and responds to animal welfare disasters and emergencies. They aim to set an example for the Asian region on how to humanely reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats through spaying and neutering, and to improve the lives and living conditions of the stray dogs and feral cats of Asia.

Tell us about what each day entailed

The adventure was split into two sections: there was the northern trek in the mountains near Chiang Mai which involved staying at different villages each night. We trekked through mountains and along rice fields and stayed in homestays with local Thai families overlooking the clouds in the valleys below. Then there was the southern section down in Phuket which was very much focused on the incredible work Soi Dog does and involved us visiting the shelter each day to help out alongside the volunteers.

What did you do on the project visit?

We went to the Soi Dog rescue shelter in Phuket. It was a chance to experience first-hand where the fundraised dollars were going. We had a guided tour of the shelter and met the incredible staff. We learnt how Soi Dog operates, and the vital difference they are making.

We also spent time working with the animals at the shelter, bonding with them and taking them on walks!

What's one thing you learned that you had no idea about?

I learnt the extent of the illegal dog meat trade and how incredible the work that Soi Dog does really is. I also experienced just how much difference a group of passionate animal lovers can make when they put their determination towards fundraising for an incredible cause!

Soi Dog
Soi Dog

How did you cope with the confrontational nature of your adventure?

I found the experience at the shelter quite emotional as did all of my team. Seeing the dogs that had been rescued from an alternative fate in the dog meat trade was really quite moving. Some of the team found dogs that reminded them of their pets back home and they found that quite emotional as well – but we were all happy knowing that they were all rescued and in the safe care of the Soi Dog staff.

What is the situation for dogs in Thailand?

Since Soi Dog’s inception they have now sterilised more than 130, 000 dogs and cats across Thailand. This has had a significant and positive impact that is very evident on the streets. Soi Dog firmly believes that the only effective and humane method of achieving their objective is to spay & neuter these dogs and cats and so prevent even more unwanted animals being born and suffering death by starvation, injury and disease, or inhumane methods of culling.

Many people advocate euthanasia as a method of control. Thailand is a Buddhist country and euthanasia is not acceptable to Buddhist beliefs. Perversely many areas control dogs by poisoning, drowning at sea and other inhumane methods. Unwanted puppies and kittens are often put in boxes and plastic bags and placed on busy main roads. The logic behind this is that the animal chooses to eat the poison, the puppy or kitten is killed by a car, and drowning in the sea is a natural form of death. Soi Dog’s vets will euthanise a cat or dog but only if that animal is suffering and has no hope of recovery.

Any highlights?

There were so many great moments! From the warm ocean waters in Phuket, to trekking through jungles in Northern Thailand with the team, to seeing all the rescued street dogs and the incredible work being done at the shelter. My personal highlight was seeing one of my team members (Stephanie) not only go on to conquer every day of the trek despite the challenge but then to go to the Soi Dog shelter and sponsor a dog that will be moving back home with her next year! I know that Stephanie had an incredibly life changing experience and watching her and the team overcome challenges – both physical and mental – and witnessing them at the Soi Dog shelter which they had been fundraising for for up to a year was really incredible.

How did you feel at the very end of your adventure?

I felt very refreshed and inspired having trekked through the Northern Thai jungles and volunteered at the shelter with such an incredible and committed team. Seeing the work being done by Soi Dog at the end of our adventure and being able to be involved in a small way was a really gratifying experience that made me feel that I was part of something bigger that was really helping to make positive change in the world, one dog at a time!

Have your views changed regarding animals?

I’ve always been a HUGE animal lover, particularly of dogs and if anything, it has just reinforced this love and passion for animals. Having a team that was so passionate about animals as well was a really comforting experience and I know that they all really enjoyed being surrounded by like-minded individuals.

Any inspiring stories you can share?

There was a particularly special moment when two of my team members (Julie and Mallory) were able to meet their sponsor dogs, one of which had been macheted across his eye but since nursed back to health. He was a very happy dog – dogs are very resilient animals. It was a very awesome moment to witness!

Feeling inspired?

If you are an animal lover and want to get involved in a great cause, check out our calendar for 2017 and filter from ‘Animal Welfare’ challenges.


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.

Feeling inspired?

Check out our calendar for 2017.


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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