So I have conquered 32 countries, in my glorious 27 years on this Earth. There’s no right or wrong way to travel, but it’s 2018 – the internet is always on hand, and I’m a firm believer that you have a responsibility to do your research.
I’ve just returned home from almost a month in Vietnam. When we are young, we consider Asia to essentially be “The Jungle Book” – exotic, foreign, beautiful creatures roaming about the place. The fascination comes naturally for us, right?
Cue: reality check.
Two weeks ago, we went to a rescue bear sanctuary two hours north of Hanoi. 178 sun and moon bears reside here – all rescued from bear bile farms, some missing eyes, organs, limbs and large patches of hair.
Even though it was made illegal in the early 90’s, bear bile is farmed all across Asia for prehistoric “medicinal” purposes – allegedly everything from aphrodisiacs to curing cancer. This is practiced by either routinely draining the gall bladder, inserting a catheter, or by removing the gall bladder all together. These 200kg animals are kept in cages smaller than the average washing machine, and 65% eventually die from lack of post surgical care.
Naturally, I was curious to see how Animals Asia combatted this. They let 20 tourists in for one day a month, and they showed us the entire park that covers 30 acres.
Why am I telling you this?
To please do your research on Animal Tourism.
Like so many people, I wanted my exotic animal experience. However, if you can touch it, feed it, ride it or cuddle it – something is not right.
In 2015, I went to a Luwak Coffee farm in Bali (like so many of us do). I saw cages out the back that housed the animals, and food that actually had maggots in the bowl. I thought the money I paid was ensuring proper care, and naively thought that everyone in the universe looks after their prized earners. I felt like a piece of shit – and learned my lesson.
Still don’t know what I’m talking about?
– Riding elephants
– Posing with tigers for photos
– Circuses with live animals
– Most third world zoos
It’s your holiday, by all means do what you like. But if my two cents for the day resonates with at least one person, I can go to sleep tonight with a clear conscience.
If you are interested in visiting the bear sanctuary mentioned, check out https://www.animalsasia.org/
© All text and images by Angela Wallace