14 Animal Attractions to Avoid


Photo: Unsplash

Across the globe, animals are suffering to keep travelers entertained. If you want to be a kind and responsible traveler, check out the traps to avoid shared by Animal Defenders International. 


Photo: ADI

Elephant rides and performances may be sold as harmless fun, but ADI’s undercover investigators have revealed severe abuse behind-the-scenes.

Not only are captive elephants deprived of the normal, social, and mental stimulation they would enjoy in the wild, in the US, sickening ADI undercover footage shows elephants being beaten and electric shocked during daily training. The same trainers are then shown controlling the elephants as they give rides to the public and make appearances at parades.

In Thailand, captive elephants used for tourist rides or performances are often illegally snatched from the wild and brutally trained in neighboring Myanmar (Burma). The shocking scale of the trade has been well documented, with between 3,000 and 4,000 elephants thought to be kept captive in Thailand.

Capture is a brutal affair, with dangerous pit-traps commonly used. Automatic weapons are increasingly being used alongside this method; protective adult members of the herd, such as the mothers, are killed to enable the poachers to snatch the more valuable calves. These babies are then “mentally broken and prepared for training” before being sold to Thai tourist camps.

These smuggled young elephants will then undergo a violent ritual in Thailand to tame them called phajaan – also known as ‘crushing’ - which is a horrific process designed to “break” their spirits. The ritual will see calves bound and forced into cramped enclosures where handlers drive spikes into their heads, beat them, and deprive them of food and water. Many elephants do not survive this abhorrent practice. This ritual is thought to exist in some form in almost every Asian country that claims to have “domestic” elephants.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that the Asian elephant population has halved over the last 75 years. Although the decline has historically been attributed to habitat loss, poaching for the tourist trade plays a significant role and is now considered a major threat to wild elephants.

Clearly, the violence and subjugation inflicted upon these intelligent and socially complex animals is unacceptable. The exploitation of elephants for rides or other tourist attractions cannot be justified.​

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

― Anatole France


The wild animal trade is a multi-billion dollar industry wherein animals are snatched from their native habitats and held in captivity for various purposes, including the pet and photographic prop trades. Many wild animals used as props for tourist photos are maimed to make them less dangerous to people. For example, the teeth of the slow loris, a venomous primate, may be inhumanely removed, whilst many primates in the entertainment industry also endure painful canine removal. 

Even if confiscated and relocated to sanctuaries, such animals have proven difficult to rehabilitate thus mortality rates are high. Captive tigers are often used to pose with vacation makers, particularly at tiger attractions where animals are bred and kept for tourists to visit and interact with. In Thailand, incidents of abuse have been documented where high-risk interactions between animals and tourists are allowed. Such interactions are not safe for humans, nor kind to the animals, and should be avoided.

Next time you see a cute animal photo, please think twice about what life is like for the animal, behind the lens because the reality for them is far from idyllic. Many are kept in captivity and may be denied food, water and affection during training. Animals should not be made to suffer for our entertainment.

Photo: ADI

Photo: Unsplash


The suffering of dolphins and whales in captivity is receiving universal condemnation from vets, experts, zoo industry insiders, and the public, yet despite widespread opposition, some zoos and dolphinaria around the world continue to acquire dolphins and other animals through controversial ‘drive hunts’.

Captivity causes dolphins and whales psychological suffering, as well as physical distress. These highly intelligent animals end up spending their lives in tiny pools in a barren, artificial environment, forced to perform mindless tricks for the public and separated from their natural family groups and diverse social structure.

Photo: ADI

In the wild, whales and dolphins live much fuller, longer lives than in captivity. One report explains how “Most captives die before they reach their early 20s, yet in the wild, females may live as long as 80 years or more," proving that marine parks are no place for animals and in no way increase our understanding of their wild counterparts.

Photo: Unsplash


In countries around the world, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, apes and monkeys, are subjected to abuse and neglect for the sake of making these animals perform for the public.

In nature, these intelligent, social animals generally live in complex societies, but in the name of entertainment, often endure social isolation and deprived conditions, with infants torn from their mothers for training.

Turning chimpanzees and monkeys into figures of derision, dressed in clothes and forced to entertain people, can undermine serious conservation efforts and even stimulate demand for animals to be snatched from the wild because people see them as amusing playthings.

ADI has revealed evidence of exploitation at German amusement park Schwaben Park where chained and collared chimpanzees wearing shorts were made to ride a tricycle, balance on a ball, and jump over hurdles.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

― Mahatma Gandhi

Photo: ADI

A Korean “attraction” that forces monkeys to perform in degrading shows was also investigated by ADI, revealing shocking conditions behind the scenes:

  • To make the monkeys walk on their hind legs, their hands are tied behind their backs - in the video secretly filmed by ADI, workers laugh as a terrified monkey repeatedly falls on his face.
  • Monkeys kept in squalid and barren conditions, including mothers and their young babies.
  • Traumatized animals exhibiting abnormal behaviour, such as constantly spinning around and biting themselves.
  • Animals hit during training and dragged along the floor.
  • Monkeys isolated in tiny cages.

There is nothing amusing about animal suffering and there is absolutely no justification for the use of primates in any form of entertainment – never pay to watch monkey abuse!

Photo: ADI


Bullfighting most notably takes place in Spain, Portugal and Mexico, however, many other countries allow it as well, including France, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela. A bloodless form of bullfighting also takes place in Canada and the USA using Velcro-ended harpoons as opposed to spears. The tourist industry is one of the primary sources of support for bullfighting. To bring in spectators, it is portrayed as traditional, festive, and a fair competition between the bull and the matador. 


However, it is not a fair competition; virtually helpless and unable to defend himself, the bull has zero chance of survival, with the manipulation of the fight beginning well before the bull is coerced into the ring, and not ceasing until his death.What’s more, bulls often take a central role during fiestas, intrinsically linking fiestas to bullfights. The bulls, cows, and calves that are sold to the villages for fiestas are bred by the same breeders as the fighting bulls, keeping the breeders in very good economical standing, as the fiestas provide an outlet for the animals that are not suitable for breeding or fighting (for instance, deformed, injured, too brave, or unpredictable).

During these fiestas, the animals suffer from horrendous acts of cruelty, lasting up to five hours in length; they can be thrown from great heights, drowned, run down by cars or tractors, stabbed, strangled, castrated, raped with metal sticks, have their tail, ears or horns ripped off, and even blinded and burned.

Bullfighting and fiestas where bulls are used are completely devoid of compassion and have no place within civilised society – do not attend such events and boycott travel agencies that promote this barbaric cruelty as part of their tourist packages.

Photo: ADI


The use of cormorant birds for fishing is an extremely old tradition in China, which exploits the animals’ fishing skills. Despite being an iconic image, this method involves not only tethering the animal to the fishing boat, but tying a snare around the base of the bird’s throat, preventing it from swallowing larger fish. The fisherman will then remove the fish from the cormorant’s throat to keep for himself. Although this tradition is now dying out, the practice still occurs, with some regions providing shows for tourists who can also have their photo taken with the birds.


Rodeos make animals suffer from injury, pain, stress, and fear. The same animals are used again and again in rodeos, having to perform several times in one event. Afterwards, they are loaded up and transported to the next event, the frequent transporting making for additional stress.

Photo: Unsplash

The flank stank, a strap around the sensitive lower abdomen area, makes them buck when it is pulled tight as the horse or bull leaves the chute. When the strap is removed, the animals stop bucking. Spurs and electro shocking devices are also commonly used.

Injuries to rodeo animals can include broken bones, contusions, concussions, skin-abrasions, and internal bleeding. Some disciplines can result in broken necks and spines, or even an animal’s death. Bulls and horses are tormented in the chutes prior to release into the ring, and riders dig spurs into the animals’ flesh, whilst tail-twisting is another painful way of forcing the animals into aggressive behavior.

Other events seen at rodeo include “Calf roping” where a young calf is lassoed, pulled over and tied up, “Steer wrestling” where a cowboy jumps from a horse onto a yearling steer and tries to wrestle it to the ground, and “Chilean rodeo” where an ox is charged at by horses ridden by men.


Horses are trained to race and begin racing whilst they are still growing and have not yet developed fully. This puts incredible strain on the horses’ legs and frames, causing irreparable damage. Winning the race is the primary goal for the jockeys, and therefore, they will do whatever it takes to make the horse run faster; whipping the horse is one of those means. Due to the sheer exhaustion and physical strain, many horses suffer from bleeding lungs, bone and muscle damage, ulcerated stomachs, and drug related injuries.

In addition to any illegal drugs they are given to increase their speed, horses are permitted pain killers before the race to enable them to continue running, despite any injuries and pains that would normally inhibit their performance. Those that are left with little hope of racing again are often euthanized as a means of saving the owners further veterinary costs. Another option for the owners is to sell their horse to research laboratories, as a considerable amount of money is invested annually into the study of racing horses’ ailments and pathologies. For those horses that do live through their racing career, as with greyhound racing, few racehorses face a happy future - many may simply disappear to slaughterhouses in the UK or overseas.

Photo: Unsplash


The feeding of live animals to large mammals is practiced in some countries as a tourist attraction - for example, the feeding of live cows and chickens to tigers in Chinese wildlife parks. Other animals fed to large predators may include rabbits, goats, and horses. This practice has clear welfare implications for the terrified prey animal and is an unacceptable form of “entertainment” for humans.

"Let us remember that animals are not mere resources for human consumption. They are splendid beings in their own right, who have evolved alongside us as co-inheritors of all the beauty and abundance of life on this planet" ― Marc Bekoff


Photo: Unsplash


On vacation, don’t buy souvenirs made from animal products, and check the source of wooden products. Don’t assume products are OK because they are on open sale - many countries lack effective animal protection and environmental protection, whilst in others, poor enforcement may mean products you see on sale are in fact illegal!

Items to avoid include anything made from ivory, bone or teeth, quills, feathers, beaks, reptile skin, furs, tortoise shells, shatoosh fleece items, coral, seashells, and traditional medicines containing animal parts, such as bear bile. Always support eco-friendly tourism instead.


Circuses cannot hope to replicate a wild animal’s natural habitat or create an environment where it can behave naturally when on tour. In circumstances of constant travel with most of the year spent in temporary, collapsible accommodation, welfare will always be compromised. In addition, elephants and tigers are powerful and potentially dangerous animals. The day-to-day husbandry and tricks they are forced to perform require high levels of control and discipline to ensure obedience, resulting in violence.

The traveling environment presents very specific problems:

Photo: ADI

  • Welfare challenges presented by frequent transportation; necessarily small, collapsible, mobile and barren facilities.
  • Animal facilities are effectively storage, rather than a living environment.
  • Extended periods in transporters, beyond the length of individual journeys (animals remain in transporters whilst the circus is dismantled, and then after the journey, they cannot be released until the circus is set up, which can be the next day).
  • Public safety: potentially dangerous animals in close proximity to people, moving through public areas.
  • Control of animals and potential for conflict results in a culture of violence (staff responsible for moving animals can be abusive due to the stress of moving uncooperative animals across open ground).

In fact, there is no other industry that keeps wild animals on the road in temporary accommodation for almost the entire year – generally about nine months. Nor is any other industry (including zoos) reliant on such close control of wild animals. The key differences between animals in permanent, static facilities such as zoos and suppliers of performing animals for films, television, or other entertainment, is the potential to improve the quality of the animal’s environment.

Photo: Unsplash


Some pursuits are clearly cruel and injurious, or even fatal, to the animals involved, such as bear baiting, cock-fights or dog-fights and these activities should clearly all be avoided. However, some activities may be promoted as harmless fun, such examples include hog-wrestling and humans fighting with animals – remember they are not fun for the animals.

Hog-wrestling, for example, typically involves groups of people attempting to catch and manhandle a pig, usually in an arena or area which is muddy. Once the pig is caught, it is usually placed in a tire or some other receptacle. One website has stated “Hog wrestling is when a four-person team is timed as they try to catch a pig and place the pig in a barrel in the middle of a muddy pit.” Clearly, several people all scrambling and grabbing at an animal can only result in that animal becoming extremely distressed or physically injured.

Photo: Pixabay


One tourism industry source describes ostrich riding as an activity which “usually takes place on ostrich farms where members of the public have the opportunity to ride ostriches. The ostrich is usually caught using a long pole with a hook at one end, and a hessian hood is placed over the bird’s head while the rider mounts. The jockey holds down the bird’s wings (by sitting astride).” This same source states that “The ostrich skeleton is not designed to support a jockey’s weight on its back and this practice is likely to harm the physiology of the animals and have negative welfare implications.”

As ostriches weigh between 100–160 kg, having an adult human on their backs is an obvious welfare concern. This is reflected in various reports of how the ostrich runs when carrying a person, displaying signs of complete and utter panic.


Those who take part in blood sports excuse their actions on a variety of counts. We as humans have no right to inflict cruelty upon each other and our treatment towards animals should be no different. Suffering is suffering and killing an animal for sport is deliberate cruelty at its worst.

Show your disgust for these cruel and exploitative practices – do not attend or participate in any sport that involves hunting, shooting or fishing!

Photo: Kind Traveler

Be a Kind Traveler!

ADI (Animal Defenders International) has teamed up with Kind Traveler to help holidaymakers avoid tourist traps for which animals inherently suffer. Through Kind Traveler, compassionate vacationers can donate to ADI to help them continue their work to combat animal suffering, and in return, receive exclusive rates with the world’s best hotels. Explore Kind Destinations to start planning your next trip.

More Ways You Can Travel Kindly + Help Stop Cruelty to Animals Worldwide:

  • Visit ADI on Kind Traveler to learn more about how your donation will be put to work
  • Don’t buy souvenirs made of ivory or other wildlife
  • Enjoy seeing wildlife in the wild, capture with photos only
  • As a reminder, always avoid circuses and entertainment that include animals and never partake in elephant rides
  • Follow ADI on Facebook for important updates 
  • Follow Kind Traveler on Facebook for more inspiration on how to #TravelKindly 

Photo Credit: ADI, Unsplash, Pixabay, + Kind Traveler

Kind Charity, Animal Defenders International, is an international campaign and rescue organization, working for the protection of animals.