Selfish Selfies

We see animal selfies all the time – some with our pets, and others with more exotic animals, like tigers. Unfortunately, what we don’t see is what goes on behind the lens to these wild animals.

In a survey by World Animal Protection (who we’ve mentioned about a gazillion times here at FAA, they’re basically our heroes), they found that 37% of tourists questioned in Thailand said they wanted to take a ride on an elephant, 25% wanted a tiger selfie, BUT 85% said they wouldn’t want to do anything if it meant the animal had to suffer.

Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a Bangkok-based adviser at WAP, said that the reason for this contradiction in numbers is that tourists only spend on average 15 minutes with the animal, and that “the cruelty is hidden from them”.

He’s absolutely right though. Often times, painful devices such as nails, metal hooks and knives are used to inflict harm onto the animals in order to direct them to perfect tricks, which we’ll go into deeper detail with our next post.

“We see an increase in demand for wildlife entertainment, and there’s limited transparency on what goes on behind the scene and how those venues are profiting from the animals.”

As well as being a risk to wildlife, tourists often put themselves at risk just to take a photo with these wild animals. Before the closure of Tiger Temple earlier this year, the popular tourist attraction were recorded to having up to 60 incidents a year (of varying severity) of captive tigers mauling tourists or volunteers.

Chris Pitt from Care for the Wild International said that, “people want to copy the photos they’ve seen online, which leads to more animal suffering’.

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6 thoughts on “Selfish Selfies

  1. Just a quick question out of interest – I understand that animals being exploited for attraction are cruel but by looking from the company’s perspective, is there an alternative to showcasing these animals? I know a lot of companies see this as $$$ so it’s easy to convince the common population against this exploitation but for companies, it may be hard to do so. And to add most tourists go to the zoo and all these other attractions to see unique animals that they don’t see elsewhere – what happens with that?

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    1. Hey there, there are definitely ways to show these animals without having to harm them! The reason that these types of animal attractions are so cruel is because of the way they actually TREAT the animals. Tigers, dolphins, elephants, monkeys, etc. all go through painful processes to be ‘taught’ how to obey commands and how to act at these venues, but all that we, as tourists, see is that these animals are tame and safe enough for us to hug/ride/take selfies with, when in reality, they’ve gone through so much to be considered ‘safe’ for human interaction. There are tourist attractions which show these animals in a more ethical way in their natural environments, such as elephant sanctuaries where visitors can interact with elephants, but rather than riding them which causes long-term damage to their spine, visitors can help bathe elephants which they truly enjoy because elephants absolutely love frolicking in water! Zoos are also a touchy topic, as some zoos also don’t treat animals very well, and many animal welfare groups have issues with animals being bred in captivity – but we’ll leave that to PETA and WAP to explain instead of bombarding you with information!

      Thanks for you comment! We understand that it is definitely something difficult to change especially when the demand is there to go to these attractions, which is why we’re trying to raise awareness of what goes on behind the scenes at these places so that people are able to understand just what their money is contributing to, and hopefully deter them from supporting cruel wildlife attractions in the future 🙂

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  2. Great read! Just curious what about Zoos which charge more for (close up) animal encounters. I know for instance, Mogo Zoo charges $100 per person for some close encounters with meerkats, tigers etc. I feel like this is a great way for people to interact with animals without them being paraded? What are your thoughts?

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    1. Hello! Close encounter experiences at zoos are a better option than specific wildlife attractions which are more physical, such as riding elephants and getting dolphin ‘kisses’. The topic of zoos, however, is still under much debate. Depending on their environments in the zoo, how they’re treated, how they were acquired, and many more other factors, it’s hard to say whether it’s still a ‘good’ idea to spend money on these encounters. We would suggest doing some research before you visit a venue, just to make sure that they treat their animals ethically. The main problem that we can think of with zoo encounters is dependent upon how often the animals are subject to human interaction. Wild animals aren’t used to being exposed frequently to humans, so constantly being touched (hugged/stroked) by them, with cameras in their faces, might cause them to feel stressed and uncomfortable, which is why it’s still best to see these animals in more natural habitats where they’re able to roam free!

      Thanks for your comment! Definitely something we plan on addressing in future posts 🙂

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  3. Think your campaign is brilliant! People definitely have to know more about this topic, I wasn’t even aware about the cruelty behind the photos, and I think most people don’t really think about it in general. And especially what you said about tourists putting themselves at risk too and then it’s often the animal that suffers the consequences. I definitely think that with more people aware about this campaign and it’s message, a lot of lives could be saved!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Safety is definitely an issue. There are always cases popping up in the media about people getting hurt from these animal attractions because the animal has unfortunately lashed out at them. But I guess that’s also a sign from the animal that it’s sick of being treated with cruelty. Unfortunately, animals can’t speak up for themselves so we’ll have to speak up for them and their welfare!

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