“Habitats” made by humans may appeal to visitors who only look at them for a few minutes, but they’re still cages for the animals who are forced to spend their whole lives in them. We buy our cotton candy and move on with our lives; the animals are there to stay. They are housed in cages that don’t come close to the jungles, deserts, savannahs, and forests that are their natural homes. They have no choice in their diets, mates, or living companions. Every aspect of their lives is controlled and manipulated.
A few fleeting moments of distraction for humans mean a lifetime of misery for animals. If you care about animals, avoid animal exhibits like you would avoid poison ivy. Here are a few of the saddest spots for animals:
North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Barefoot Landing allows notorious exhibitor Kevin Antle to shill tiger cubs and a chimpanzee to tourists for photo ops. Antle’s operation, T.I.G.E.R.S., has repeatedly been cited and fined by federal authorities for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including failure to provide animals with veterinary care and proper shelter and failure to handle dangerous animals safely.
Barefoot Landing also features its “Alligator Adventure,” which offers live animal shows and displays more than 700 alligators, crocodiles, tropical birds, snakes, and other reptiles.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Part theme park, part zoo, this tourist trap displays orcas, beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, and walruses in cramped tanks. Visitors are allowed to feed and touch the belugas throughout the day. Far too many whales and dolphins have perished at Marineland: It is estimated that more than 40 whales and dolphins have died there, approximately 25 of them dying in the last 15 years. Marineland has imported beluga whales and dolphins who were ripped from their ocean homes.
Marineland also keeps bears, deer, bison, and elk in cages surrounded by noisy roller coasters and rides.
San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida
At Sea World, orca whales perform tricks for food; swim endless circles in small, barren concrete tanks; and live far short of the 60-year lifespan that orcas enjoy in the wild. In the wild, these whales live in tight family units, with bonds that may last a lifetime.
In their ocean homes, dolphins swim together in family pods up to 100 miles a day. At SeaWorld, their home is reduced to a virtual bathtub.
Sea World, which owns most of the captive orcas and dolphins in the United States, has one of the worst histories of animal care. At least 35 orcas and over 100 dolphins have died at U.S. Sea World facilities. The aquarium industry worldwide has claimed the lives of at least 150 orcas and 963 dolphins. And until it was exposed to the public, Sea World routinely shot and killed hybrid ducks who flew in and joined Sea World’s resident bird population.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom World can’t even keep its own employees happy, much less its animals! In March 2001, two former Six Flags Discovery Kingdom employees filed a report with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging animal beatings, neglect, suffering, and terror caused by inadequate veterinary care, improper housing, mishandling by untrained and unqualified personnel, and exposure to noise from thrill rides and growing crowds at the park.
Since 1995, eight elephants have died at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Elephants are forced to perform tricks and give rides to park visitors. Elephant handlers and visitors to the park have been injured by elephants on three separate occasions. Despite these serious incidents, Discovery Kingdom World continues to use cruel, outdated circus-style training methods, in which elephants are beaten with bullhooks (rods with sharp metal hooks on the ends) if they don’t perform on cue.
Six Flags Wild Safari
Jackson, New Jersey
There are 31 Six Flags parks in North America; Wild Safari is one of two that exhibits elephants (see Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, above). The elephants are kept in a drive-through exhibit, which means that they are subjected to a constant stream of vehicles, exhaust, and unsupervised visitors.
In one three-month period, 26 animals died at Six Flags Wild Safari. The causes of death ranged from neck and skull fractures to hypothermia, tetanus, pneumonia, and drowning. While drive-through wildlife parks give the impression that they’re “sanctuaries,” Six Flags Wild Safari has sold “surplus” baboons to biomedical researchers and exotic hoofed animals to hunting ranches.
Come Home Happy, Not Heartbroken
Vacations should hold only happy memories. Instead of tainting your trip by seeing tortured animals, why not simply hit the beach, take a cruise, or visit a museum? There are loads of eco-tourism companies that offer cruelty-free excursions.