We see it on numerous Facebook and Instagram accounts in the photo albums of our friends of recent trips to Thailand or Bali there's the quintessential photo of riding an elephant or patting a docile tiger. It's in all the brochures on top attractions and things to do, but regardless of whether they assure you they treat their animals humanely, this is an industry profiting from cruelty.
Baby animals are taken from their mothers in the wild, alive or dead, as they are known to gain more money and attention from tourists. The animals are “trained” from this early age through beatings, starving and containment to break their spirit and make them docile and obedient. They spend the majority of their time when not on display in tiny cages or chained to the ground.
Elephants are incredibly intelligent creatures, they are not made for human riding and this can actually give them severe back problems. Elephants are not even native to Bali and we're introduced purely for the tourism.
Tigers and wild cats are heavily drugged and sedated. These are wild dangerous animals and whilst they can respond to some training they can never be tamed and in reality would not placidly accept the hugs and strokes of multiple strange human beings.
This animal cruelty is entirely based on the tourism trade, if people stopped seeking to take elephant rides or pat wild animals for the sake of pseudo cultural experiences and photo opportunities these trades would disappear. It's tempting to want to get up and close with majestic animals but please do not support these industries, do not partake in these activities, and if you know of someone who's about to holiday in one of the countries where this takes place, take the time to have a chat about the reality behind the photos.