Changing our diets to be more ethical is just one aspect of living a cruelty-free lifestyle. It is equally important for us to be respectful and kind to all animals – including those who are used for entertainment purposes. Visiting zoos, aquariums, petting zoos, circuses, watching camel races, and riding ponies, horses, and camels perpetuates the idea that animals are here for us, in this instance as nothing more than entertainment props.
Being animal lovers, we understand why people want to be around animals. Often we find them exotic or interesting for us to see in person, so we want to get up close, or we find them cute and cuddly and we want to pat or hold them. Before we participate in activities or events, however, we should always stop to question whether our fun is at the expense of anyone else.
There are countless activities for you and the family to enjoy that are animal-friendly! Below are some ideas for things to do, ranging from surrounding yourself with rescues to animals in nature, through to completely animal-free (but still fun!) –
1. Visit a farmed animal sanctuary
There are so many reasons to visit an animal sanctuary! The best part is, you will get to see these gorgeous animals living life just as they were meant to. These animals are ambassadors for their friends who are still stuck in the violent system, and connecting with them will be sure to inspire you and any accompanying visitors. While you may have held a baby duckling or chick, hand-fed a lamb, or hugged a calf, you most likely haven’t seen an adult cow running with joy, or had the pleasure of rubbing the belly of a 300kg pig. We promise you, you’ll fall in love with these curious, interesting creatures and learn so much about their kind through their stories.
There are a few important reasons why sanctuaries differ from zoos –
Firstly, the animals in sanctuaries are domesticated, meaning they are familiar with people and your presence does not cause them stress (in most cases). Secondly, the carers have the animals wellbeing as their utmost priority and accommodate their individual needs. This means that certain animals who may not enjoy being around people, for example, aren’t forced to be on show and can easily hide! Guests are also escorted around by a volunteer to ensure the animals are safe and enjoying the experience. Lastly, the animals in sanctuaries were saved from the cruel farming system, abandonment, or rescued from cases of neglect. They were given a second chance at life, and by visiting, you are helping the carers continue to care for them, and future rescues!
2. Help out at the local animal shelter
If you love being around animals, why not volunteer at your local animal shelter? Volunteering is not only rewarding for you but can also change the life of the animals who are looking for homes. Roles can range from dog walking, helping with feeding and cleaning, through to fundraising and administration assistance (usually while surrounded by animals in need). Call up your local shelter to find out what sort of help they are after, or if any of the animals need some company, exercise, or playtime.
3. Go hiking or camping
Spending time outdoors means that you might be lucky enough to observe animals in their natural habitat – which is far more enjoyable than watching them in a cage, enclosure, race, or performing an unnatural trick. There are walking tracks in local parks, reserves, and national parks which vary in difficulty level and time, so walks can be as easy and pram-friendly or as challenging as you’d like. You don’t have to go too deep into Australia’s bushland to see amazing wildlife; bush turkeys, lyrebirds, kookaburras, turtles, water dragons, wallabies, koalas – granted some are a lot shyer than others, so keep your eyes peeled!
4. Go on a whale or dolphin watching cruise
Animals in aquariums are confined to tanks that would be the equivalent of you being stuck in the space of a swimming pool, for life. There is so much we are yet to understand or appreciate, about the social behaviours and intelligence of sea animals, and having them confined and displayed is no more justifiable than it is for land mammals or primates. Instead, why not spend the day on the ocean seeing these majestic marine creatures swim in their natural environment! For your best chance at spotting whales in the big blue, find out the peak whale periods for your area either online or with the chosen cruise company.
5. Go to a museum
With so many types of museums, there is undoubtedly something for everyone. From art, science, and technology, to history and animals of the past, each museum and exhibition is fascinating for different reasons! You can take the time to browse and learn about the different historical events, inventions, dinosaurs, or artists, or, you can just peruse the countless rooms and spaces and enjoy seeing all the displays. While the MOMA might not be one to thrill the kids, natural history museums tend to have impressive T-Rex skeletons or life-size whale statues which are sure to capture their attention!
6. Ride a bike
Hire bikes (or a tandem bicycle if you’re up for the challenge) and explore the city or local park, or go for a coastal ride! This alternative is not only better for your health, but also the environment – cycling is one of the most eco-friendly ways to get around. Depending on where you go, you might even see some wild animals going about their days in nature. If there’s a pond in a local park, there’s probably ducks or turtles – just remember not to throw them breadcrumbs as bread can upset these little guys’ stomachs! Instead, bring along some peas which are nutritionally great for them. Along the coast, maybe you’ll spot some dolphins – or at the very least, seagulls (lots of them).
7. Watch an all-human circus
All human circuses are full of brilliant acts, from acrobats and trapeze performance to musicians, dancers, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, magicians, unicyclists, as well as other object manipulation, and stunt-oriented artists. It is an incredible display of talent and skill and most importantly, everyone involved wants to be there!
8. Visit a fun park or carnival (and skip the animal sections)
While most carnivals have animal displays or petting zoos, you can still go without supporting this aspect. Instead of riding the ponies or patting the baby lambs (who are killed when they are no longer “cute”), jump on a mechanical ride and have all the fun without the suffering.
9. Watch a documentary
The best way to learn about animals is by viewing them in their natural habitat! You can easily done through the countless documentaries that exist online. The National Geographic and David Attenborough are able to transport us to these amazing worlds, showing us the true behaviour and lives of animals.
Next time you see an animal confined to a cage or tank, tied up, or being handled and passed around, consider this – if you were given food and a place to sleep, but all your natural behaviours, freedoms, friends and family were stripped from you, how happy would you be? It is possible for us to live fulfilling, enjoyable lives, without using others for entertainment. So get your sneakers on and (plant-based) lunches packed – there are tracks to be trekked and rescue animals to dote over!