Animals, Eco-Tourism and You

Tourism, especially eco-tourism, is something that really interests me. For those of you that don’t know, I’m studying Anthropology as my undergraduate degree in the UK. So, of course, I’m fascinated by people as well as animals (I’ll be doing my masters next year in Anthrozoology – best of both worlds!), and by people, I mean, I’m fascinated by our behaviour, cultures, and habits. Tourism happens to fall into anthropology quite nicely. It is something that most, if not all, of the Western world participate in, and it is something that drives many, many economies. Eco-tourism in particular is fascinating because it combines the ritual of tourism, or holiday-making/vacationing, and the conscious care and respect for our planet.

But does it really?  Are eco-tourists, or the companies that promote eco-tourism, really interested in caring for the planet?

That’s where the animals come in. Whilst many eco-tourism trips involve an emphasis on wild places, nature and so forth, some will involve the exploitation of animals. Wild, exotic animals are particularly favoured. The first example that comes to mind is riding and swimming with elephants. So many people write it on their bucket lists as a thing to do before they die, yet what are the ethical implications of this? It may seem delightful on the surface, but underneath is a shady story of captivity and suffering. And I know, without a doubt, that many animal lovers would be distraught if they knew they had contributed to a harmful industry for the sake of an exotic, instagram photo.

That’s where you and I come in. Over these next few blog posts I am going to be sharing various tourist/eco-tourist activities that involve animals, explain why they’re damaging and suggesting alternatives (hopefully!). Some of the posts I make will probably feel like common sense for some, such as zoos, but I want to try and cover as many areas as possible. This is a really important subject because in recent years, eco-tourism has rapidly risen in popularity. Gone are the days where everyone spends a week in July in a hotel resort with a swimming pool, doing nothing but tanning. Yes, some people will still do that, but others want more. Who can blame them? We just need to make sure that our travelling and tourism doesn’t do more harm than good.

Until my next post, which will feature a type of animal exploitation that the tourism industry use to their advantage, you may be interested in a couple of my previous posts about animals, tourism and people. This post is about using horses as a taxi service in the city which I am currently living in Spain, and this post is about considering the ethics behind whale watching.

Does anybody know of any specific animals in the tourist industry that you’d like me to discuss? I am open to any suggestions, I would like to make this project as big as possible in the hopes that it will reach  more people.

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