This is a bit of a weird post for me to write because I’m a big believer in not having regrets and that everything happens for a reason. However, I honestly believe I was quite naive to the tourist industry and I ended up taking part in, and therefore funding, activities that I now know are wrong on so many levels.
Should I have done more research before going to these places? Yes.
Would I go again? No.
It was wrong of me to do these things but unfortunately I don’t live in the world of Harry Potter and time-turners aren’t a real thing. (Obviously they were all destroyed when Harry and his pals were at the Ministry anyway…). There’s no point in wallowing in self pity so the only thing I can do is help spread the message that it’s not cool to take part in these activities no matter how good the picture will look on your Instagram grid.
So what activities am I talking about?
Specifically I’m on about my time in Thailand. I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of people next to tigers and riding elephants. I can still see the attraction. These are amazing animals that we wouldn’t normally get to be so close to. And that’s kind of the point. It’s not normal for an elephant to carry us around. It’s not normal for us to sit next to a fully grown tiger. It’s not normal for animals who are natural predators to be in the such close proximity to us.
It seems obvious now but at the time I was surrounded by other travellers who were all going to visit the tigers and ride an elephant. It was just the thing to do when you were in Thailand. It seemed normal for us to lay down next to a tiger. Normal. That now seems crazy.
I remember reading all the signs at the tiger place about how the tigers weren’t drugged and were trained to be around humans. I thought at the time that it seemed too good to be true and it’s only since I’ve been home and read more about it that I’ve discovered the dark side to Thailand’s tourism industry. The treatment of elephants is particularly horrific, even in places calling themselves an ‘Elephant Sanctuary’. It’s hard to know if any place is truly helping to rescue the animals from the tourist hot spots because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. I think it’s best not to fund any place that lets tourists near the animals for this reason.
If you’re heading to Thailand soon or any other country that exploits the welfare of animals for the tourism industry, then do your research before parting with your money. Is it really worth a few likes on a picture?