The Exploitation of Animals for Tourism in Spain

The use of animals for tourism and entertainment often results in serious problems for the welfare of an animal and can negatively impact the conservation of species. The ideals that are conveyed by the use of animals to boost tourism promotes the belief that animals exist for our entertainment.

This exploitation of animals has almost become normalized where the animals are degraded and society has become desensitized to acts of cruelty. We forget that it is these opportunist activities of profit for this industry whose economic benefits should not overlook the welfare and rights of the animals. It is essential to raise awareness and inform tourists and businesses about the need to discourage and not to participate in activities that exert a negative impact on the life of the animals. The idea that «your freedom ends where another’s begins» should also be applied among different species and not just humans. Animals also have the ability to feel, they are alert beings with rights recognized by law.

People often believe that the actions of one person have practically no effect on the world, and that if you don’t do something, someone else will do it anyway. What we often forget, or what we want to forget, is that we are the only ones responsible for our actions. Why don’t we focus these actions on creating a better world?

 

Many tourists visiting Spain will have heard of Spanish bullfighting and would jump at the opportunity to go and see such a “traditionally Spanish” spectacle. Most of these tourists are either unaware of the extreme cruelty involved in the bullfight or have not thought about the fact that they are supporting such cruelty by attending and buying tickets for the event.

Bullfights are considered by many people as the ultimate artistic expression of bravery, elegance and culture. However this belief totally neglects the horrific cruelty involved.

A bullfight inflicts terrible suffering on the animal, not only during the fight but also in the days leading up to the event. The torture of the animals begins from the very moment they are ready to be transported to the bullring. The bulls are usually transported in cage-like boxes 90cm in width, in which the bulls cannot turn or move and some of the larger bulls can’t even stoop their heads.

Once they arrive at the bullring they are subjected to all kinds of cruelty. At the beginning, the bulls are kept in outdoor pens, but just before the fight they are locked up individually in complete darkness where, among other things, they throw sandbags over their kidneys, they sometimes trim their horns and on some occasions they cut the rear legs which are then covered with turpentine or ammonia so that the animal feels extreme itching and can’t stop moving. It is said that sometimes they even smear petroleum jelly in their eyes in order to distort their vision, they are given laxatives, they stuff cotton wool inside their nose and pins are inserted in their testicles. Finally, before the bull enters the ring, a coloured ribbon is nailed into their spine. This is known as the “divisa” which is a badge that  represents the bull. Once released into the ring, the animal is hit with the impact of light and becomes temporarily blinded.

Once the fight begins, the bull is attacked with a lance (a harpoon that is 10 centimetres long). This is a cruel act in which the animal receives between one and three jabs. In general, the bullfighter needs to be extremely robust so that he can use all his force and weight against the flesh of the animal and manage to tear open a hollow in the skin of up to 40 centimetres long.

The Lacerations cause both external and internal bleeding, to such extremes that the animal begins to lose blood rapidly. There have been cases where the bull has lost up to two litres of blood out of a total of nineteen. In other words, 10% of their blood supply. The aim of such lacerations is to inhibit the bull’s attack. However, in reality the lance is used to cut the muscles that support the head so that the animal cannot raise it, thus lowering the risk for the bullfighter and facilitating their attacks on the animal. The animal will then be stabbed by flags, each with a harpoon of 6 centimetres.

Finally when the bull is ready to be killed, it receives the final thrust. The killing sword is 40 centimetres in length and is used to cut the aorta and the vena cava. In many cases, the bull does not die and remains paralysed often losing its senses. It is then dragged out of the ring by mules and skinned alive by the facilities in the arena.

This ‘sport’ is a clear act of extreme cruelty and it is important to be aware of the horrific actions carried out during the spectacle before deciding to attend and support such an event.

Unfortunately, bullfighting isn’t the only form of entertainment involving animal cruelty. In fact, there are many attractions all over Spain that include the use of animals for amusement. Many of these are theme parks and sea worlds in which animals are subject to put on shows, acting in extraordinarily unnatural ways and performing tricks to impress the huge crowds that gather around the them.

 

One example of these parks is ‘Loro Parque’, a zoo and marine theme park located on the island of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Loro Parque displays captive birds, dolphins, and sea lions and, in partnership with SeaWorld, keeps orcas crammed in small tanks.

SeaWorld lent four orca calves to launch Loro Parque’s “Orca Ocean” in 2006. Keto and Tekoa came from SeaWorld San Antonio. Kohana and Skyla, both of whom were taken from their mothers at the young ages of 2 and 3, were from SeaWorld Orlando. These massive animals, whose natural habitat is the ocean, were flown thousands of miles in a wide transport plane, and cranes were used to move them from their plane transport pens into the tanks.

Since the launch of ‘Orca Ocean’, two orcas have been added to the park. Morgan was taken from her ocean home on the guarantee that she would never be used for public display and would be released back into the ocean as soon as she was rehabilitated,however, she never was. Two calves, both of which were inbred, have been born at Loro Parque: Vicky, who died at the young age of 10 months old, and Adán, who has survived for four years in a concrete tank.

Two PETA staff members visited Loro Parque and filmed orcas who had fractured teeth and other injuries, who languidly floated in small tanks, and seemed to have mucus running from their eyes, resulting from irritation from chemicals in the water. Orcas are intelligent animals who work cooperatively, have sophisticated social structures, communicate using distinct dialects, and swim up to 100 miles every day. Without being able to engage in such natural behavior leaves orcas frustrated and bored. With little else to do, they neurotically chew and bite the sides of the tanks. The orcas’ worn and damaged teeth could be seen clearly when they opened their mouths to eat. Some orcas have teeth that are completely missing or ground down to the gumline. Many of the orcas at Loro Parque had exposed pulp cavities. Park workers drill into the orca’s teeth in order to open a cavity that allows them to carry out daily cleaning, which is done to reduce the risk of serious infection that can cause sickness or even death in captive orcas when their teeth inevitably become fractured or severely worn. However, some captive orcas still suffer from these complications in spite of the procedure.

Wild orcas are inquisitive, energetic, and almost always on the move. Orcas at Loro Parque often float motionless at the surface, bobbing lazily, or beg nearby trainers for food. Keto was seen floating listlessly at a gate and eventually turned onto his side in what may have been an attempt to keep an eye on the trainers walking over the bridge. Apparently prompted by total boredom or a search for food, Adán, the youngest orca at Loro Parque, slid in and out of the water. This odd behavior was seen repeatedly.

Orcas have “razor marks” caused by aggression and attacks from tank mates. These razor like marks appear when dominant animals scrape their teeth against the skin of less aggressive animals. Lower-ranking members of the forced and unnatural grouping are routinely bullied but have no way to escape because of the cramped tanks. These attacks can result in painful and serious injuries, and they have been reported as being so severe that blood seeped from orcas’ wounds.

 

Another example of this kind of touristic amenity is Oceanographic, Europe’s largest aquarium, located in Valencia. There are 45,000 animals of 500 different species including fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. Amongst these are sharks, penguins, dolphins, sea lions, walruses, beluga whales, and more, all inhabiting nine underwater towers. Such facilities are prisons for the animals. They suffer a life imposed, after being taken from their natural habitats they are often badly treated and locked into small spaces and without their basic required conditions and used for unnecessary entertainment.

One species on show at Oceanographic, the arctic beluga, has been in the spotlight since 2003, after numerous reports describing the terrible psychological state of these animals, due to the deplorable conditions in which they have to live. While Oceanographic has been sold to the world as a prodigy of architectural modernity, the facilities that were built for the belugas are some of the infamous inadequate dimensions. It seems like a more suitable space for another species smaller in size and that belugas ended up there because it was the only space they available for them. Ecologists warned from the beginning about the male beluga showing signs of depression. His condition has since been deteriorating and there has been no sign of changes being made to the belugas living environment.

The sad mistreatment of animals that have been taken away from their natural habitats, always seems to be in some way evident at these kind of animal parks and aquariums and two ex staff members have recently spoken openly about the mistreatment of animals at Oceanographic.

“The dolphins are unlucky in that the shape of their mouth forms a smile, making them always appear to be happy. The people should know that after the shows, when the music is switched off and the lights go out, abuse and neglect is what these dolphins really feel.”

 

The power is in our hands to promote a responsible industry, not encouraging or participating in the ill-treatment of animals.The life of any living creature is above any touristic benefit. To encourage good practices for tourists, here are some ideas on how to enjoy your holiday with respect towards animals.

  • Don’t participate in activities involving animals caged, chained or used in performances.
  • Don’t go near breeding habitats (nests, burrows, dens, etc) as this could endanger the success of breeding.
  • Don’t feed animals (wild or captive) as this can have serious consequences on the animal’s health but also your safety.
  • Avoid shouting, making noise or smoking close to animals
  • Avoid attending cruel festivals even if they are traditional.
  • Don’t provoke animals or go invade their space
  • Don’t buy souvenirs made from animal parts or take away any live animal as a souvenir.
  • Keep in mind that the flash on a camera can frighten animals and cause them to become scared and turn aggressive
  • Don’t endorse shows in which the animals have to take positions and behave in ways that have no likeness to their natural behaviors
  • If you witness any type of mistreatment of animals during your holidays, take photos and notes of all useful information and contact the FAADA

 

Sources:

(2011). Corridas de Toros: Crueldad Animal. Available: https://rescateanimalmx.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/corridas-de-toros-crueldad-animal/.

(2015). El Maltrato Internacional de Orcas de Seaworld al Descubierto en Loro Parque. Available: http://www.petalatino.com/blog/loro-parque-seaworld/.

(2016). PACMA rechaza el apoyo institucional al Oceonogràfic de Valencia por ser un ejemplo grave de maltrato animal. Available: http://www.elperiodicodeaqui.com/noticias/PACMA-rechazaapoyo-institucionalOceonograficValencia-por-serejemplo-grave-/101538. 

(2013). Sociedad Dos extrabajadores denuncian malos tratos a animales del Oceanogràfic de València. Available: http://www.lamarea.com/2013/02/19/dos-extrabajadores-denuncian-malos-tratos-animales-en-el-oceanografic-de-valencia/.

Gomez, E. (2015). Unámonos por un turismo responsable con los animales.Available: https://www.escapadarural.com/blog/turismo-responsable-con-los-animales/. 

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