Footage of brutality at so-called 'sanctuaries' should be a wakeup call to tourists who fund animal abuse | Totally Vegan Buzz

Footage of brutality at so-called ‘sanctuaries’ should be a wakeup call to tourists who fund animal abuse

Footage of brutality at so-called 'sanctuaries' should be a wakeup call to tourists who fund animal abuse
Image: Zhenya Voevodina /

Countless sanctuaries around the world take in the most vulnerable and mistreated animals and give them the love, care and dedication they deserve. But just because an organisation describes itself as a ‘sanctuary’ does not guarantee that animals are treated with compassion. 

For generations tourists across the world have been ignorant to the mistreatment of animals at businesses which profit from enslaving wild animals.

Luckily, the use of wild animals in performing circuses is widely accepted as unethical today, and many countries have moved to ban the practice, including the UK and Paris.

But while it’s easy to spot a circus and boycott the industry, the word ‘sanctuary’ can be hard to navigate. 

Many sanctuaries are among the world’s most admirable businesses – taking in injured, sick and elderly animals which have been discarded by the meat industry or escaped from a slaughterhouse truck. 

With the animal circus industry in decline, there’s also a growing need for a safe place for former performing animals to grow old, as they’re unable to adapt to life in the wild. 

But many businesses have taken advantage of the wonderful work that genuine sanctuaries do. They charge tourists entrance fees to enter the sanctuary and force animals into grotesque performances and photoshoots using cruel methods. 


This month a so-called elephant ‘sanctuary’ in Thailand was blasted by activists for abusing animals with bullhooks to force them to perform.

Activists exposed Maesa Elephant Nursery in Thailand, where baby elephants are separated from their mothers when they are just two years old. 

The group shared footage of the abuse at the site across social media. 

It shows tourists watching animals seemingly bathing in the water, but workers can be seen using sharp metal bullhooks to control the animals – which have chains around their necks.

Social media

These practices are widespread in many sanctuaries in Thailand and other countries. 

The problem is not helped by endless social media posts of people posing with or riding on elephants, and celebrities exacerbate the problem. 

Earlier this year, Kim Kardashian shared pictures of herself at a so-called elephant sanctuary in Bali.

Animal rights activists slammed the visit and accused Khardashian of animal abuse.

One of the top comments read: “Do better research next time, don’t go to fake sanctuaries that chain up elephants and torture/beat them into submission.”

But Khardashian claimed the organisation is ‘working to save these beautiful animals and that she ‘did full research before going’.


Khardashian’s blunder proves just how easy it is to be drawn in by the sales lines of organisations which exploit wild animals. 

Tourists must be extremely careful when sizing up a business which could be posing as a sanctuary. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recommends 8 key questions to ask before visiting a sanctuary:

  • Is there an attempt to house the animal in its natural habitat, with space and suitable partners?
  • Do the animals have physical stimulation such as structures to climb, fields to graze in or ponds to bathe in?
  • Do the animals have enough space to explore and roam?
  • Are visitors allowed to hold or touch animals? (this will be prohibited at a reputable sanctuary)
  • Are the animals acquired ethically?
  • Does the facility breed animals? (reputable sanctuaries do not)
  • Does the sanctuary limit visiting hours for the benefit of the animals?
  • Is the sanctuary accredited?

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About The Author

Published by Oli Gross

Oli’s career and personal ethical values both help shape his reporting of the diverse world of veganism. His background is in local newspaper and magazine journalism, and his work has included reporting court cases, celebrity interviews, business analysis, food and drink features and government legislation.



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