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Responsible Tourism: Festivals and Cultural Events

Last week Frontier looked into what it means to be a responsible tourist in regards to animal welfare issues concerning animal tours and trekking. Today we will be looking at animal sporting attractions and cultural traditions and their role in responsible travel. To engage or not to engage in activities involving animals could be a difficult decision to make, and the aim of this article is to inform you, the reader, to better enable yourself to make your own choices while enjoying your trip.

Bull Fighting and Rodeos

Bull fighting is a long held tradition among Hispanic communities in Spain, Portugal and other countries in the Americas and Europe. Considered as an art form in practising countries, it is now illegal in several other countries, and the practise is widely considered by animal rights organisations and significant proportions of the public as barbaric and unnecessary.

Image courtesy of George Groutas

Each year 13,300 bulls are killed in official bullfights, and no doubt many more in unreported events. Prior to their grisly demise, the bull, typically bred short-sighted, is fatigued through lack of nourishment and beatings, and often partially blinded using something similar to vaseline before the fight. The bull is slowly tormented into charging and stabbed with a sword repeatedly until death or paralysis, then typically has its ears and tail cut off to act as a trophy.

Rodeo events can be extremely entertaining if well managed and the animals in question have been correctly cared for and treated. However, many of these events can involve acts of animal mistreatment. Animals involved in calf roping and racing events are often subjected to high levels of stress, and euphonising animals and animal casualties and injuries are not uncommon. Another important issue involving Rodeos and Bullfighting is the example it sets for young and impressionable people; that example being that it is acceptable to mistreat animals for entertainment purposes.

Image courtesy of Emil Kepko

Cock and Dog Fighting

Both cock and dog fighting have been a traditional sporting attraction in many countries across the globe, but thankfully are now banned in the majority of developed and developing countries. Dog fighting is banned almost globally, but has strong links to crime and crime syndicates. If you witness dog fighting while abroad, be sure to take extreme care in the area and report the incident from a safe location. Cock fighting is still practised legally in many South East Asian countries, France and some Latin American countries.

Image courtesy of Thessaly le Force

Cultural and Religious Events Involving Animals

Many religious practises and traditional country specific holidays can raise animal welfare issues. Issues vary from the mass slaughter of 200,000 animals in Nepal as part of the Gadhimai festival every 5 years, to the throwing and catching (hopefully) of a goat in Spain to mark a festival in honour of St Vincent de Paul. There’s usually some kind of holiday or cultural event occurring everyday somewhere in the world, and their severity in regards to animal cruelty vary significantly. Thankfully many traditional festivals similar to these and including the Spanish festival mentioned have been made illegal, but some do still continue regardless.

Other festivals are equally as brutal in nature, such as a German tradition involving the tying up and beating of a live goose. Thankfully this event has been modernised and the goose is now killed prior to the stringing up and beating. A Spanish festival that does not usually result in any kind of animal casualty is the Rapas Des Bastas. In this annual tradition, wild horses are rounded up into a large stone corral, wrestled, and shaven by three fighters per horse which does, however, massively distress the animals.

What can I do to be a Responsible Tourist?

The best way to act as a responsible tourist is to avoid all participation in events and traditions that involve animal cruelty or mistreatment and be aware of the law in the country you are visiting. Voicing your concern with the owners of the accommodation you’re staying in is a good way to ensure other tourists are also aware of any animal welfare issues. Additionally, making friends and family aware of any such event that causes distress or harm to an animal will ensure people can make an informed decision and act responsibly when travelling.

Image courtesy of Fiona Hufton from her time on Frontier's Ghana Orphanage, Teaching and Community Health project

How can Frontier help me travel responsibly?

Frontier operates the Tibet, Nepal and India Ethical Adventure Trail. This project gives any adventurous traveller the chance to experience all three of these magical countries in an ethical and sustainable way, by enjoying what the country has to offer on a local level. You will interact with locals in a traditional setting and experience all each country has to offer both culturally and scenically.

Image courtesy of Mara Muscel from her time on Frontier's Nepal Teaching and Temples project

Hopefully this article and this article series has raised awareness of animal welfare issues abroad. Some of the issues discussed in these articles are ongoing, but being aware and voicing your concerns, hopefully many of these practises will cease in popularity and eventually become a thing of the past.

By Jack Plumb

If you feel compelled to become a responsible tourist, or want to continue to pursue volunteering there are a lot of decent projects out there looking for a helping hand. Why don't you become a wildlife volunteer in South Africa? Or help elephants in India? The opportunities are endless. Frontier runs over 300 dedicated conservationcommunityand adventure projects worldwide.

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