On the tourist trail, it’s common to see decrepit horses, shackled elephants, and crippled camels used for rides.
Seeing animals exploited for transport is heartbreaking. They are often forced to labor in stifling heat with no water and to carry loads much larger than their weak bodies can handle. Many are struck, beaten, or forced to perform in unnatural ways for eager tourists.
A weekend trip to Fort Santiago, Manila, once again exposed the cruelty that goes hand in hand with animal rides. Horses lined the hot streets and had no reprieve from the scorching midday sun. Many were frothing at the mouth, with their heads drooped. Horse owners were hassling tourists, and some people didn’t need much persuasion at all—it was hot out, and a family ride in a shaded carriage sounded good to them, even though they didn’t have far to walk. The whole process reminded me of circling pony rides, making this cruelty all the more pointless.
All this begs the question: What does an exploitative animal ride really add to your experience and at what cost to the animal’s welfare?
It’s a perpetual problem interlinked with all kinds of social issues. Poverty leads to opportunistic people pooling “resources” to serve tourist demand, and there is an inherent lack of empathy and understanding when it comes to animals’ needs. Unaware tourists flout their money and contribute to creating a cash economy based on cruelty to animals. The buck stops with them. A compassionate approach by tourists would lead to the downfall of this industry—it’s all about supply and demand.
Of course, this issue isn’t just relevant when you’re abroad—using animals for human transport is a common occurrence. In fact, some people seem to think that it is the reason why animals exist.
When you’re off on your jungle explorations, island adventures, and other sight-seeing excursions, make the ethical choice to use your own two feet or to jump on a bike. Exploring new landscapes in this way has a lot of advantages over a bony, bumpy ride on an animal. By leaving animals behind and traveling via bike (or your own feet!), you can:
- Follow your own path
- Move at your own pace
- Get off the beaten track and enjoy more genuine experiences
- Get some exercise
- Save some money
- Avoid being taken for a ride in terms of additional fees, tips, and pre-arranged visits to tourist traps
- Feel warm and fuzzy for leaving animals out of your travel itinerary
Take the road least traveled, and don’t contribute to industries that abuse animals. The fact is, when animals are used for commercial gain, their best interests are not being considered. It’s up to you put animal welfare first instead.
Post written by former intern Liselle Finlay