These tips to be a responsible traveller abroad, can help to protect the planet, and animals that live on it. We are all appalled by stories of the illegal wildlife trafficking trade, bullfighting, trophy hunting and shark fin soup. But in fact, nearly all the profit from these industries come from western tourism (mostly from the US, but quite a lot from the UK too). Did you know that over 60 British hunters have killed lions, since the sad death of Cecil the lion, by an American dentist?
So whether you are vegan or not, whether you are passionate about the planet or animals (hopefully both), here are some useful tips to help you avoid inadvertently (or purposely) harming those we share the planet with.
Tips for Eco-Friendly Travel
- Where you can, walk or cycle. And pick up all litter wherever you go. Other countries often don’t have councils to come pick it up later. Try to stay at sustainable lodgings, rather than big hotels that often damage local areas.
- Read up on the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, which protects the land, animals and local water-ways (especially if you are having camp-fires etc). If you smoke or BBQ, follow the advice to the letter, as in hot countries especially, you could cause a serious wildfire (a discarded butt on dry grass is like lighting a piece of dry paper). Use a personal ashtray to safely extinguish cigarettes, until you find a bin.
- Try to eat at locally-owned places. Don’t travel to Malaysia, then have your lunch in McDonald’s.
- Wear a natural sunscreen that is free from microbeads, which deposit tiny particles of plastic into the oceans (never use human sunscreen on dogs). Leave the plastic flops at home and treat yourself to a pair of rubber flops – so if you do lose one in a wave, it will biodegrade.
- Be a responsible boater. If you fish, take all your waste with you, to avoid harming marine wildlife. Use funnels to change oil etc, and follow boating guidelines to avoid harm to dugongs and manatees (‘sea cows’).
- Respect the dress code. Many countries have strict religious beliefs, so wise up first, before you head into a temple. Ask before taking photos and don’t arrive tanked-up, upsetting the locals and demanding bacon and eggs. Travel is about expanding your horizons.
- Ask what the tipping culture is. In some places they don’t like tipping. In others, it is the main source of income. Learn a few words of the local language, so you can ask, if unsure.
Tips for Wildlife-Friendly Travel
- Be careful with ‘wildlife sanctuaries’, as many are nothing more than glorified zoos. Responsible Travel (an ethical travel agent) says be particularly careful with ‘elephant sanctuaries’ as many are just tourism scams.
- Don’t visit venues with live animals. Orcas (killer whales) at Seaworld have permanent sunburn as the water is not deep enough (they live the equivalent of you spending your life in your bath tub). They are also routinely masturbated to produce semen; one recently tried to beach himself in a suspected suicide attempt, he was so miserable.
- Don’t have photos taken with wild animals (monkeys are ripped from their mothers at young ages, and have their teeth pulled out) and all animals used for entertainment suffer – from bulls in the ring to dancing bears. It’s western tourism that keeps it alive.
- Never buy souvenirs, unless you know the source. Avoid anything with feathers, tortoiseshell, ivory, ashtrays (some are made from gorilla paws). Take only memories.
- Don’t accept rides on animals (donkeys, camels, horses). In New York’s Central Park, a charity is trying to retire the horses to sanctuaries, as many suffer injuries, and welfare issues. It has invented beautiful electric car carriages, that would give drivers more income.
- Report animal abuse (say in zoos or circuses). Give details (and photos if possible) to the local animal shelter or charity (make a note before you go) and tell the police & tour operator. Also tell Freedom for Animals & Born Free.
- Boycott companies that support bullfighting etc. If you see any brochure promoting anything cruel, you can send the information to League Against Cruel Sports, who will investigate and educate the owners on what is really involved. Their site lists companies that still promote bull-fighting and ‘running of the bulls’ festivals.
- Be a flight volunteer. This is a scheme run by Soi Dogs (Thailand, a country with few adoptive homes and a dog meat trade) to use the free baggage allowance of travellers, to fund dogs being sent to new loving homes.
Tips for Vegan Travellers
Even omnivores often go veggie abroad, due to not wanting to eat dodgy food by mistake. Animal welfare laws are more lax abroad, and it’s more difficult to know what items are, if you don’t know the language.
- Download the Vegan Passport App (available as a pocket book, with pictures if you get stuck). Also download the free Vanilla Bean App that lists reviewed eateries worldwide.
- Avoid anything that you don’t its source. Many foods abroad are very cruel (pate de foie live octopus, dog/cat meat). Shark fin soup is made by cutting off fins, then dumping sharks back in the water, to die later on). And it has no taste, only used for decoration.
- The Vegan Travel Handbook is a guidebook to show good places to go: from wildlife-watching in Ethiopia, to meditating in the Taiwanese mountains. You’ll also find cooking classes in India, wine-tasting in Northern Italy, and details of the best veggie restaurants and hotels worldwide. Includes vegan-friendly cities, tours, festivals & food trucks.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired, by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. Mark Twain
Easy tips for the eco friendly traveller