From going on safaris in Africa to spearfishing lionfish in Belize, some of my best memories are of seeing majestic wildlife in their natural habitat. There is no better way to unwind than to be totally at one with nature.
As I’ve traveled to different habitats, I’ve learned so much! As part of my dedication to reducing my environmental impact while traveling, I am trying to learn as much as I can about respecting animals while exploring their space.
It is crucial to carefully choose animal encounters that are ethical.
Why? For the good of the animal, for conservation, for supporting companies that actually care about the environment and aren’t out just to make a quick buck. For these reasons and so many more!
As a newbie, it can sometimes be pretty difficult to differentiate between ethical and unethical experiences. For me, some things are a hard NO—like riding elephants; but there are other animal “encounters” out there that do good, you just need to do your homework!
So, what constitutes an ethical animal encounter and how can you find them? Let’s dive into the details!
Animal Encounter That Are Not Ethical
First things first, it’s essential to realize that there are companies who put profits above the ethical treatment of animals—but we can change that! Because it’s such a tourism-based industry, we are the people who keep these companies in business or shut them down.
When you support ethical companies, you allow them to thrive while less-than-scrupulous companies gradually disappear.
Research is the key factor in choosing the right company. You can’t just trust what companies say. For example, while many companies say that they are preparing animals to be reintroduced into the wild, this simply does not work in most cases.
So which kind of encounters should you say no to?
- Feeding Wild Animals — In any situation where you are feeding wild animals or using them for tourism purposes, it screws with the natural order of things. If it’s a sanctuary or a place where they are rehabilitating the animals, this is a slightly different case.
- Riding Elephants — Avoid any interaction with domesticated elephants. Keeping elephants in chains and beating them from childhood until they are broken down is sadly a common practice in Asia. This lifetime of torture is done so that tourists can take elephant rides—not worth it!
- Shark Cage Diving — This is debatable. Chumming the water in any situation can alter the environment and natural order for the animals; I personally don’t support shark cage diving, however, there are some reputable companies or those run by environmentalists. So this is something to research.