Activities sold to tourists, like the infamous elephant ride Phuket in Thailand, don’t always have something to do with the local culture. Things like drunk tubing, zip line rides or vintage cable cars are specifically designed for tourists and none of the locals will show up to these places expecting to be entertained.

However none of these activities aimed solely at tourists represent as much of a moral dilemma as the ones that involve animals.

From swimming with dolphins to elephant ride Phuket, most of these activities are controversial, and sometimes for good reason.

That being said, animal advocacy groups can sometimes exaggerate in order to create propaganda for their own causes. Some of these groups are extremists that have a tendency to claim that everything is extreme cruelty. Need proof? Here’s proof.  There also are dozens upon dozens of websites writing false claims. Stay on your guard and double-check your sources when reading on the subject.

Here are a few activities that you should know more about before signing up for them.

Tiger petting and the Tiger Temple

The Tiger Temple scandal in Thailand should be an eye-opener for anyone who would like to consider tiger petting on their trip to Southeast Asia. The fact that only baby tigers were at the zoo, that adult tigers were nowhere to be seen, and that the amount of food – the wrong food for tigers – that was given to them goes way over what’s needed for a proper diet are all signs that scream “stay away”!

What happens when tigers and humans step into a cage together? Well, truth be told, anything can happen.

That’s why tigers at petting zoos are sedated. Strongly sedated. How else can these businesses stay open? How else can they guarantee that the tigers won’t randomly attack tourists?

The infamous Marineland

Going to Seaworld or Marineland can be an enchanting visit. However when serious journalistic investigation unveils recurring mistreating of animals at such facilities and that government laws are thoroughly overhauled because of the constant cruelty, then people should probably think twice about going to marine mammal parks. Don’t forget that this also, apparently, includes bears!

Seaworld has also been under scrutiny lately and the scandal is only beginning. Blackfish, a documentary about Seaworld, sparked outrage from both sides; PETA then accused Seaworld of sending spies to infiltrate their ranks; the whole situation led to lawsuits from Seaworld shareholders… and it’s far from being over.

Whale sharks in the Philippines

Many articles have been written about swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines. However most of the complaints activists have against such a practice is that it is unnatural to feed them. Is everything mistreatment of animals? This is for you to judge. All is not as clear as the elephant ride Phuket thing…

The Spanish’s obsession with animals

Everyone has heard about the corridas, these bullfighting events where a torero (or team of toreros) sticks spikes on a bull until the matador shows up to take it out of its misery. Animal cruelty advocacy groups have been targeting these events forever.

But Spain has more than just corridas.

The “running of the bulls” in Pamplona has been targeted by activists.

But the “Toro de la Vega” festival in Tordesillas, the “San Vicente de Martir” festival in Manganeses de la Polyorosa, the “Pero Palo” festival in Villanueva de la Vera, the “Rapa das Bestas” in Galicia, the “Hanging of the Galos”, the “Baby Quail Catapulting” in Valencia, the “Toro Jubilo” festival in Medinaceli are all quite “interesting” in their nature.

The irony behind it all? A 2006 law protects some of these events because they are of “touristic interest”.

Elephant Ride Phuket in Thailand and many parts of Africa

This is a pleasant ride. Show up to the elephant farm, feed them a few bananas, sit on them, take a walk through the jungle. What can go wrong?

Well, one of the biggest issues with such tourism is that the demand for elephants is greater as more and more tourists want to ride them. This means that elephant farm owners need to find more elephants. And these elephants can be quite hard to breed. Some will resort to catching elephants in the wild. In the case of Thailand, capturing elephants in the wild is illegal. Some, then, resort to buying elephants from neighboring Myanmar, where laws are rarely enforced.

The treatment of captive elephants has also come under scrutiny.

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