The lure of ‘get up close’ animal attractions

The temptation to get up close and friendly and take selfies with iconic and cute creatures is almost impossible to resist.

The following are excerpts from reviews of a tiger petting facility in Thailand posted on TripAdvisor.

“First Time I Used A Live Tiger as A Pillow. This place is cool. Good food, drinks, and the opportunity to get into a cage with live tigers. Tiger Kingdom allows you to choose from entering cages with small, medium, or large tigers. Getting into the cage is thrilling and the photos with the tigers will be the ones your friends like the most.”

“Better than expected – honest animal lover’s review. It’s important to remember these are captive Tigers, they have grown up around humans and wouldn’t survive in the wild. . The keepers did have sticks, but I only saw them use them to run them along the ground to play with the Tigers or gentle taps to discipline the young tigers. In the wild, being clobbered by their mother’s paw to discipline them would be a lot more painful.
What a crazy experience! We paid to see all of the animals and you should too!”

“I’m an animal lover and I was skeptical of if I would agree with the treatment and care of these animals.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable endorsing this place if I thought the animals received even the slightest bit of poor treatment. Go be amazed of beauty and size of these animals, you won’t regret it.”

The main message that these reviews reveal is that in our modern times animals are still inconsequential in society and no one really cares about their rights, welfare or needs only having a good time. It also confirms that despite social media publicity of animal abuse and better education we have not moved on from the days of viewing animals as objects and chattels to make use of. I despair at how naïve This naivety and complete lack of comprehension and awareness of animal rights and welfare issues, particularly by the young, is depressing. It would appear that animal abuse is inescapable in our modern age.

What is even more frustrating is that self declared “animal lovers” see no wrong in patronising obviously cruel animal attractions because “loving” animals according to them only involves the selfish desire to be close to them, stroke them and have their picture taken despite the circumstances or the way they are treated. Or to use a tiger “as a pillow”, “have good food and drinks” and be amazed that they come in all sizes.

Tourist elephant riding

The message is that all these attractions are cruel

I realise that for a person with no genuine empathy for animals the temptation to get up close and friendly and take selfies with iconic and cute creatures is almost impossible to resist. Thanks to social media this enticement outweighs any other considerations. The truth is that all these attractions no matter how well run you believe they are, all have a component of cruelty and abuse connected to them either before, during or after the animals have participated, or all three.

Imagine the reaction to a puppy petting farm where the pups are constantly interfered with by hordes of visitors.

The tiger cubs are bred purely for  the purpose of stocking these petting establishments. When older become the breeders of the next generation just like puppy farms that we all supposedly hate. So imagine a puppy petting farm where the pups are constantly pestered by hordes of visitors and then when older, banished to breeding pens to produce a constant supply of puppies to be manhandled.

Would you be so eager to visit such a place then? These petting zoos have no conservation or rescue purpose at all and only exist to make money for local entrepreneurs. If we didn’t frequent them they would not exist and the tigers would not be put through all the trauma and stress. And of course these establishments are a health and safety nightmare.

It should be enough to see wild animals from a safe distance without molesting them. I hate to say it, but it is even more preferable to patronise a zoo than frequent these places. It is also a shame that large corporations such as TripAdvisor cannot do more to restrict the encouragement to visit these establishments by monitoring the reviews.

Please people – get real and avoid these places and find somewhere else to get a thrill!

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Nothing Changes When Fighting Animal Abuse Issues

Conditions rarely improve for animals

A couple of years ago I was a participant at a conference on animal welfare issues where several animal charities had gathered to discuss how to tackle the cat crisis that existed in the UK. Having listened for an hour or so, I felt as though I had been transported back several decades, as I realised that the conversation hadn’t changed at all over that period. Talk of catching and neutering all the stray and feral cats and releasing them, educating the public over neutering and operating free neutering schemes had all been visited before. Obviously these had been of little success, but with nothing new on the table everyone was excited about putting all their efforts yet again into solving the cat problem once and for all, whereas my inner thoughts were of “here we go again”.

It was somewhat of an epiphany for me, as I suddenly realised that nothing really changes when it comes to solving animal welfare issues and despite endless national and international legislation, improved scientific and technological knowledge, rising educational standards and plentiful funding, animal abuse and uninformed pet ownership continues unabated in the UK, and around the world for that matter, and we appear unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Arguably it is on the increase, with few people sincerely looking out for animals’ interests, which is particularly galling for those of us who have spent lifetimes attempting to improve their lot in life.

puppies, unwanted, stray, dog pound
We have never been able to solve the continual problem of unwanted animals.

Animals seem to have few friends these days and their interests and welfare are getting lost, with those entrusted with protecting animals apparently apathetic to the task, unable or unwilling to make any progress. Whether it is the media, the law, governments, science, academia, industry, the veterinary profession or welfare and conservation groups, they all seem to have an agenda of going with the flow and maintaining the  status quo as there are too many conflicts of interest, economic pressures and self-interest involved which hinder any positive improvement.

“giving rights to animals would seriously affect global economies”

Many observers confidently believe that our attitude towards animals has improved over the last few decades and that there is now general recognition among the masses that they deserve to be treated humanely and have their rights respected, which has resulted in their welfare standards bettering across the board. During a career in animal welfare that has spanned this period, I have seen no tangible evidence that this is so. Realistically the problems are just changing and increasing to alarming levels as more people have the financial means to keep pets, farming methods change, cultures insist on continuing to pursue deep-seated outdated attitudes and traditions and the available land for free roaming animals diminishes.

Abuse is heavily weighted in favour of our well-being at their expense.

We each play a part in perpetuating the use and abuse of animals but are unable to consider ending our involvement as their use provides massive employment opportunities and huge financial rewards to the point where any curtailment in their exploitation or giving rights to animals would seriously affect global economies and would impact on our lifestyles and pastimes.

Most, if not all the exploitation is heavily weighted in favour of our well-being at their cost and we have become so self-obsessed that we are not only losing sight of our responsibilities to them but are increasingly losing our empathy and respect for them. To many they have no real purpose or value anymore in our modern society except as unwilling participants in all our pastimes and hobbies and of course to eat, and we find it impossible to consider that they may have interests of their own particularly in living lives unfettered by us. They touch most of our lives in some way and they provide many of us with enjoyment, faithful companionship and complete trust, but we seem to always let them down at some point. Solving the issue of animal welfare and rights to everybody’s satisfaction is fundamentally one of the world’s final frontiers.

Updated 2020

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