Animal welfare is such a big topic at the moment, and it is incredible to see people really opening their eyes to the cruelty we, as humans, inflict on our fellow earthlings. I was recently introduced to Joshie, one of the founders of Verramente which is an up and coming tour guiding service and travel blog website. Verramente has a great ethos – “to make the world a better place”. The company’s interest is not only on travel but also animal welfare, particularly welfare of dogs, and they work with canine rescue initiatives across the world. In fact, Joshie helped to save two dogs, Pascal and Snowy, from Korea and now her puppies are global adventurers too. Of course, if you read about my rescue of Hope in Myanmar, you’ll understand why their mission resonates with me so much.
Meet Joshie. I asked Joshie to tell me what animal friendly travel means to her company, and what animals mean to her personally. Have a read below:
“I love animals, I have always loved animals with a passion. I couldn’t walk past stray cats and dogs from when I was a little kid – I had to bring them all home. I ended up looking after more than 10 stray cats in my room (and I even developed a skin disease from an allergy to cats).
Of course, I always dreamed about being close to wild animals. One of my dreams was to have a baby jaguar or a baby tiger as my pet. Of course, riding elephants and swimming with dolphins… I dreamed about it over and over again. I told myself, when I grow up, I am going to head off to Thailand and Indonesia to hang out with ‘wild’ animals. I was too young to know the ugly and cruel truth behind what really happens.”
There is a harsh reality to animal tourism that people don’t see, like some of the issue Joshie mentions below:
- Elephant riding – abusive owners do anything to break the elephant’s spirit, including stabbing needles into their feet, chaining them up, whipping and torturing them.
- Performing monkeys – ropes are put around the monkey’s neck and chains on their legs, so they are forced to move like a puppet.
- Tigers – cute as they may be, if you can get close to, pat and take a selfie with a tiger,
they are drugged 24/7 for your entertainment.
“I wonder, if kids knew the truth, what would they say to their parents when their parents take them to animal tourism places? What would you have done if you have known this when you were young? When we are young, we can’t imagine that humans could actually treat animals like this, just to make them serve us. As children, when we go to the zoo or any animal tourism spot, all we can see is animals we think are being treated well, and that is what we expect of their caretakers. But that’s the thing, we don’t get to see behind the stage of the show. As we grow up, we started to learn about the ugly truth of a lot of things, but one of the worst things is what we, as humans, are doing to animals for our entertainment. Most of the things that we do with animals involve us hurting them, and in return, animals sacrifice their lives to serve us. From food, fashion, entertainment, you name it.
“Ever since I joined animal rescue groups as a volunteer, I got to see and experience behind the scenes. That was the turning point of my life, and I set my life purpose, raising awareness of animal cruelty and helping people respect animals so we can live in harmony. I have been pursuing that mission ever since.
Yes, a lot of people say it is not easy to change the industry and how we run businesses but you know what, we can at least change how we choose to travel. I believe (I want to believe) that if we had known the truth, people would choose not to get involved in animal cruelty, but instead help animals to live in peace and harmony with humans.”
I think Joshie has touched on a really important point here – something most animal lovers, particularly those that work in animal welfare and conservation would not admit to necessarily – that most of us have dreamed of owning a wild animal as a pet. Most of us, as children, believed that the world was good, and that humans didn’t have the capacity for such cruelty. As a true animal lover, it is hard to be responsible because we all have a desire deep in us. I have met many people on my travels, and in the process of discussing the purpose of The Travelling Cheetah, they pipe up “oh, I love animals too” and proceed to show me a picture of them cuddling a drugged up snow leopard, or riding an elephant. That is not true love for an animal – that is animal abuse. By participating in any unjust animal tourism activity, you are directly responsible for the animal’s daily torture. I asked Joshie what she believes we could do as animal-loving, animal-respecting tourists, and how we can be responsible in our decisions.
“Instead of going elephant riding, why not visit an elephant sanctuary where you
can enjoy amazing wildlife and learn about them? If you plan on travelling to Thailand, you can visit ethical wildlife sanctuaries such as Elephant Nature Park and Wildlife Friends Foundation where you can get up close and personal with elephants. At the Elephant Nature Park they are dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and saving elephants
lives – elephants who have been part of the cruel tourist trade or working in the forestry industry. ENP take orphaned or abused elephants and help them live in a safe place where they can live free and interact with other elephants. At the Wild Friends Foundation there are many wild animals rescued from the entertainment business such as circus bears, monkeys, buffaloes and elephants. They focus on educating people about the reality of the cruelty that wild animals experience in entertainment tourism.”
“When we are planning to travel, let’s do some research to make sure that we are not supporting businesses that are unethical and abusive to animals. We can still have fun while we participate in responsible activities, which help animal friendly organisations. Start with one little step – if we all try that, can you imagine how much we could make our world a better place for not just us, but also for animals?
Our travel choices make a big difference to the conditions that animals live in. The more we change our choices to be animal friendly, the more travel companies such as Verramente pop up which support ethical, animal friendly travel.”
I want to thank Joshie for her story, and her insights.
Please note, this is not a sponsored article; simply one animal-friendly travel blogger making the world more aware of another animal-friendly travel company. Please check out Verramente.