The Trouble with Animal Selfies

The more you travel, the more you’ll  run into situations where, as a tourist, you are being offered services (or goods) that involve the exploitation of another. If you’re trying to travel responsibly and ethically (and you should be) - it’s a troubling, sad, and often frustrating part of travel. Sometimes the exploitative nature of the situation can be obvious and thus, arguably, easier to avoid. Other times, the exploitation can be obfuscated and difficult to spot and therefore somewhat more difficult to avoid and take part in. To be sure, if there were zero economic incentive to offering these shady services, they would likely disappear. Sadly, the fact that they haven’t disappeared must mean that tourists are constantly availing themselves of these services (either wittingly or unwittingly).

Let’s talk about one situation, which the conscientious traveller ought to be aware: posing for pictures with animals. Unless you do a lot of research to confirm the treatment of the animals a head of your trip, or the service is endorsed by an independent organization that you trust - you should probably assume that the animal your posing with is being exploited. It’s confusing as to why more people don’t realise that a chained/drugged tiger, posing for pictures, probably isn’t having a very good life. Here's a short guide to help clarify things:

  • Don't Ride the Elephants
  • Don't Watch the Snake Charmer
  • Don't Hug the Koala
  • Don't Hold the Sea Turtles
  • Don't Watch the Monkey Dance
  • Don't Swim with the Dolphins


  • Don’t pose with the fucking Tiger!!

The good news is that, if people are taking these pictures so that they can post them to Instagram, the social network is now taking steps to have these pictures flagged. Users will be presented with information and warnings when searching hashtags that typically display exploitative animal pictures. It’s a step in the right direction, but unfortunately stops short of an outright ban. Please, consider pausing for a moment and reading the linked article. Be aware of the effects your travel is having on others.

My apologies for the preachy tone this week.

Let me know what you think. Are there situations you’ve found yourself in while travelling that you’d like to warn other readers of? Let me know in the comments.

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Feature Photograph of the Week - Balloon Creature

A giant balloon creature.

A giant balloon creature.