Tag Archives: tourists

Don’t be struck by “vacation blindness”!

By Jennifer O’Connor

I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise, which was supposed to be a lovely weekend with my mother. But what we brought home with us were memories of battered dolphins, beaten-down horses and bald parrots. Everywhere we went, we saw animals who were being abused and exploited in order to empty tourists’ wallets.

Travelers with money to spend are the driving force behind “swim-with-dolphins” excursions, horse-drawn carriage rides and beach photos with parrots or iguanas. But long after those tourists are back at home with stories and souvenirs, the animals will remain in the same grim conditions until the day they die.

Resorts and cruise lines make big bucks off the backs of dolphins. Although captive marine mammals in the United States are afforded some limited legal protection, programs outside the United States are often governed by few, if any, regulations. Many “swim-with” facilities operate almost continuously, giving the dolphins little respite from a constant stream of tourists. Even though dolphins are keenly intelligent and capable of swimming vast distances every day, their worlds are reduced in these facilities to cramped and shallow swimming pools. Most captive dolphins die far short of their natural life span.

We overheard many people talking about their “swim-with” excursions and claiming to “love” dolphins. But every ticket purchased from such operations directly contributes to the animals’ captivity and misery. Dolphins used by these operators will never know the complex ocean world in which they belong. They’ll spend every day of their lives in the same barren tank, serving the whims of tourists who are more focused on having an “adventure” than thinking about the cruelty they are supporting.

The horses we saw who are used to ferry tourists looked like props from The Walking Dead. They were skeletally thin, and many had clots of foam dripping from their mouths. Several had visible injuries, and one was obviously lame. Most looked like they could drop at any second. There must be some sort of “vacation blindness” that grips people, a compulsion to “do” things that allows vacationers to ignore the animals’ obvious suffering and line up to take a ride.

Along the beaches, once-beautiful parrots were hauled around for photo ops. The birds looked bedraggled and depressed. Their feathers were scruffy, and one had several raw sore spots. They were never allowed to fly. Avian welfare expert Dr. Kim Danoff notes, “Depriving birds of flight is mentally and physically stressful. Some birds respond by plucking their feathers out; some become aggressive. It also contributes to poor health including weak and atrophied muscles, cardiac problems and respiratory problems.”

The birds had no shade and were on the beach all day. Lorin Lindner, Ph.D., who founded California’s Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary, points out that parrots are very sensitive to heat and direct sunlight as well as being vulnerable to sunburn, heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

We saw one teenager shriek and drop an iguana to the ground during a photo op. Without stopping to check for injuries, the handler quickly retrieved and passed the reptile on to the next person waiting.

As long as travelers succumb to temptation and take a swim or a ride or a photo using captive animals, this suffering will continue. While packing your bags for your vacation, please remember to include some compassion. Don’t spend any money or time at places where animals will continue to languish in misery long after you’ve returned home.

Running of the bulls: finishing dead last

By Jennifer O’Connor

Every July, bored middle-class Americans, Canadians, Aussies and Europeans with time and money head to Pamplona, Spain, to amuse themselves by running with the bulls.

But by the time these tourists go home with hangovers and anecdotes, the bulls who are victims of this exercise in machismo will be dead.

Even though this event is about as relevant today as an eight-track tape player, reporters still fill up column space by glamorizing the run.

What’s rarely mentioned is that the bulls are whipped and terrorized to force them to run down streets crowded with masses of inebriated people hitting them with sticks. Bulls slip and fall on the slick cobblestone streets, often breaking horns or sustaining other injuries. Few tourists know the ultimate fate of the animals: death, one by one, in the bullring.

It’s hard to believe that bulls are still being stabbed to death for entertainment in 2011.

The running of the bulls is just a prelude to bulls being led into bullfighting arenas.

The exhausted, confused bulls fight for their lives as men on horses run them in circles while repeatedly piercing them with knives called banderillas, until the animals are dizzy, weakened from blood loss and suffering agonizing pain.

The horses, who are blindfolded, can also suffer serious injuries if they can’t avoid a charging bull.

The matador (Spanish for “killer”) comes in only when the exhausted bull is already near death.

Bulls are often still conscious as their ears and tails are cut off as “trophies” and as they are dragged from the ring on chains.

Tourists are what keep the fights alive and the bulls dying. Money spent to run with the bulls contributes to the bullfights, as do tickets purchased by curious tourists or those who simply go along with what’s included in their travel itinerary. By the time an appalled spectator rushes out of the arena in horror, the damage has been done and more bulls will endure a painful death. 

But condemnation of this bloody pastime is growing worldwide, and those few still clinging to this barbaric tradition are finding themselves in nearly empty arenas.

Spain’s Catalan Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban bullfighting after officials were presented with the signatures of 180,000 people demanding an end to the carnage. Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, is widely considered the birthplace of bullfighting.

Dozens of other Spanish cities and towns have also declared their opposition to bullfighting, and according to a 2009 Gallup survey, 76 percent of Spaniards have no interest in attending or supporting bullfights.

Portugal’s municipality of Viana do Castelo purchased the city’s only bullring and transformed it into a science and education center. A poll conducted by Mexico’s Green Party found that 84 percent of respondents believe that the cruelty of bullfighting is unnecessary.

Even Álvaro Múnera—a South American matador who was once known as “El Pilarico,” or the star bullfighter—now works to ban bullfighting.

Múnera, who suffered severe injuries after being gored by a bull and is confined to a wheelchair, says that he is haunted by the animals he killed—in particular, one “practice” cow whom he watched die (only to learn that she was carrying a calf) and a bull who fought to live after a sword pierced his body and came out the other side.

Would those who participate in the running of the bulls still do so if they knew that the bulls are running toward their death? If there is any civility, decency and kindness left in a world that still kills animals for sport, let’s hope not. 

Jennifer O’Connor is a staff writer with the PETA Foundation.