Restaurant bear Mark in Albania

Travel Kind on Holiday

Make sure animals don’t suffer in silence as seemingly harmless interactions are often problematic


Vienna, 9 August 2023 – Holiday season is used for travelling. But as enriching as it is to get to know foreign cultures and countries, there are unfortunately also downsides. In many countries, tourists are offered attractions with animals. From selfies with wild animals, to donkey, elephant or camel rides, to the display and exploitation of bears and big cats: cruelty towards animals lurks. FOUR PAWS warns travellers against dubious fun at the expense of animals.

What looks like harmless fun is pure stress for many animals, and in the worst case, massive animal cruelty. Attractions with animals should always be viewed critically. Tourists should not be tempted by offers such as swimming with dolphins or petting, feeding and taking selfies with wild animals."

Vanessa Amoroso, Head of the Wild Animals in Trade unit at FOUR PAWS

In South-Eastern Europe, for example, there are still so-called restaurant bears in cages with which guests can have their picture taken, these bears live a miserable, cramped life of solitude. In Thailand, tourists can pet adult tigers and take photos with the animals who have been beaten since they were young and taken from their mothers. Touching owls or birds of prey that are tethered in chains, and making them sit on people’s arms, is offered in Italy, among other places.

For most, it is often not recognisable that the animals are suffering. Amoroso warns: "The fact that an animal does not make any sounds of pain does not mean that it is doing well. Contact and interaction with humans are unnatural for any wild animal and forcing unnatural behaviours causes stress. Many are brutally broken in order to make them compliant; this happens particularly often with elephants that tourists can ride. Therefore, we urge travellers to refrain from any attraction that advertises feeding, touching, riding or taking a selfie with a wild animal. What is a cool experience for you, is a lifetime of misery for them."

Any event where animals are injured or killed – such as bullfights, should be banned anyway. "Unfortunately, animal suffering is often justified with the argument of tradition. But no tradition, no matter how deeply rooted, legitimises animal suffering." says Amoroso.

Many animal lovers, especially families with children, seek contact with animals on holiday.  FOUR PAWS advises observing wild animals in their natural habitat at a distance, if possible. Or at true sanctuaries offering life-long species-appropriate care.

"National parks and sanctuaries for endangered species or animals rescued from poor keeping conditions offer the opportunity for animal encounters. When visiting a sanctuary, visitors should make sure that animal welfare and sustainability are top priorities. After all, some wildlife parks also offer shows with wild animals. If such an animal show is part of the park's programme or even if interaction with animals is offered, all alarm bells should ring right away. True sanctuaries offer no interactions, breeding programmes, or trade of animals" warns Amoroso.

Circuses with wild animals are also a no-go. "While circus bans for wild animals have been introduced in some countries, in many holiday countries this cruelty still exists. The animals have to perform tricks that are completely against the natural behaviour. Often, they are mistreated to force them to obey," says Amoroso.

Travellers should also avoid activities with domesticated animals such as carriage rides, donkey, pony or camel rides, as well as popular elephant riding, where the animals are also forced to be obedient by brute force when they are still young. In some places, the animals are on duty for more than ten hours and breaks for watering and feeding are often not observed.

In short, FOUR PAWS' travel tips for a holiday without animal suffering:

  • Avoid selfies with wild animals
  • Do not visit places where wild animals can be fed by visitors, are forced to perform tricks or where riding of animals is offered
  • Do not buy souvenirs made from animals or animal parts
  • Do not book direct interactions with animals, such as petting tiger or lion cubs


  • See animals in the wild, where they belong
  • If this is not possible, see them in true sanctuaries

Take a look at the FOUR PAWS Travel Kind guide here:

Tiger and lion cubs

Barely wild

Learn more
Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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