Don't Buy Wild
It is likely that when traveling you will want to purchase unique items or sample local and exotic cuisine to enhance your experience and create lasting memories. While this is a valuable part of the experience, it is important to be well-informed so that your choices do not harm wildlife.
PRODUCTS AND SOUVENIRS
Before you purchase that souvenir, stop to consider its composition and origin. Was it made from an animal product such as ivory, bone, shell, or fur? If so, an animal died' probably many animals' to make the many copies of knickknacks to be sold to tourists. Consider also, that trade in products such as coral or wood may involve destruction of habitat and threaten ecosystems. These products are natural resources and their removal is harmful to wilderness areas. Both animals and the environment will benefit if travelers refuse to purchase such items.
Coral reefs comprise only a small part of the marine environment, yet are home to more than 25 percent of the world's ocean fish and are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. The collection of corals for the aquarium and jewellery industries typically target rare, slow-growing, long-lived animals. Over harvest can cause localized destruction of reefs, increased erosion, and loss of habitat.
According to a 2011 World Resources Institute analysis, human activities have put some 75 percent of the world's coral reefs at risk. Many have been damaged beyond recovery. A global survey found that 90 percent of reefs were missing species of high value to international trade. The corals are collected by dragging iron bars along the ocean floor, wiping out entire Eco-communities. The pattern of exploitation is clear: new, untouched coral beds are found and wiped out by collectors who leave a trail of destruction in their path.
HSI continues to be committed to highlighting the cruel and inhumane practices of the fur industry. Each year, more than 8 million animals are trapped in the wild and 30 million were slaughtered in fur farms to satisfy the growing demand for fur.
Wild animals are usually caught in steel-jaw traps, an incredibly cruel and inhumane method, which cripples the animals but doesn' t usually kill them.
For those animals raised in cages and killed for their fur, not only are these poor animals killed inhumanely, but they suffer numerous physical and behavioural abnormalities induced by the stress of caged conditions. Most animals are killed just after their first winter coat grows in, at 7 to 10 months of age. The industry euphemism for their final slaughter is the ' introduction to unconsciousness' ' “ but in fact they are either shot, gassed, poisoned, or subjected to electric currents in the anus or mouth. It is an absolute lie that they die painlessly and calmly. They are acutely aware and display unbelievable fear. HSI believes no animal should be subjected to this kind of ' life' or death in the name of fashion.
HSI investigations have found that real fur can be disguised as fake through use of dye or cutting/shaving techniques, or it may be used as a trim. It may also be mislabelled as fake or not labelled at all.
The global investigation' s findings include:
- The death toll is conservatively estimated to be in the range of two million dogs and cats killed annually for their fur. Usually, 10 to 12 dogs and 24 cats are killed to manufacture one coat - more if puppies or kittens are used
- The fur industry deliberately misleads consumers about product composition. A dog product may be sold as Gae-wolf, Sobaki, and Asian jackal among many others. Cat products are often sold as Wildcat, Goyangi and Katzenfelle to name only a few.
- Inhumane means are employed to kill animals for their fur. Investigators witnessed and recorded animals dying by slow suffocation, hanging, bludgeoning and clubbing, or bleeding to death. All of these methods involve severe panic, trauma, and needless prolonged suffering.
In July 2003, HSI exposed the horrific cruelties involved in the global cat and dog fur trade and revealed its grisly products are on sale in Australia. The 18 month investigation revealed appalling animal abuses at the fur farms in Asia, killing an estimated 2 million cats and dogs a year, and the deception tactics used by the merchandisers to sell the fur to unsuspecting dog and cat loving consumers in countries like Australia. Clothing and toys made from cat and dog fur are deliberately mislabelled as fictitious animals or not labelled at all.
HSI subsequently engaged in a national campaign to convince the Federal Government to prohibit the importation of these horrendous products and in May 2004 we successfully secured a ban on the importation of dog and cat fur into Australia with a commitment to ensure that all fur products are labelled with species and country of origin so that consumers would not be misled
To our dismay we have found dog fur again this year (2011) in several stores, including major national retailers. We purchased and scientifically tested a series of vests and they were confirmed to be dog fur. Despite the import ban, subsequent investigations over the past few weeks have revealed that dog fur is being widely circulated throughout Australia including major national department stores and speciality chains.
For more information about our current dog fur campaign click here.
Ivory objects in trade are most commonly made from the tusks of African or Asian elephants, but the term can also be used to describe the teeth of other animals including walrus, hippos and whales. Buying and selling ivory drives the poaching of elephants. Objects are sold mostly in the form of carvings, but also as:
- unworked pieces
- piano keys
- hunting trophies, and
- individual tusks.
Asian elephants are an endangered species with fewer than 32,000 remaining in the wild. African elephants are a threatened species with fewer than 600,000 remaining in the wild. International trade in Asian elephant ivory was banned in 1975. CITES then tried and failed to regulate and control the ivory trade. By 1989, when CITES finally banned international trade in ivory from African elephants, it was estimated that 90 per cent of ivory in the so-called legal trade was from poached sources. It was clear that permitting ivory trade was a death sentence for elephants. Individual nations passed laws to implement that ban.
Leathers and skins
Watch bands, shoes, bags, belts, wallets and other exotic leather items are found in tourist shops, even in places where there may be laws against selling products of endangered species. Retailers will often tell customers what they want to hear, claiming that the animal was humanely caught and killed, or that it is legal to take the item home. Additionally, many leather objects may not be properly labelled and it is not always obvious that the item is made from an exotic or endangered animal.
Be on the lookout for leather articles that could be made from
- lizard or snake skin,
- Even from sharks, rays or sea turtles.
These animals may have been wild-caught and illegally traded, or farmed in inhumane conditions.
Traditional Chinese medicine
Throughout Asia, you may come across exotic potions or salves referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Despite claims that they can aid in sexual potency or cure certain illnesses, these animal-derived medications are rarely tested by scientists and evidence of their success is limited. Unfortunately, many wild animals used in these products are in danger of extinction. Animal parts used in TCM, such as rhino horn and tiger penis, are extremely valuable on the black market and demand for them drives poaching.
Bear bile is a form of TCM that involves long-term inhumane treatment of thousands of bears. The Asiatic black bear, listed as threatened by the IUCN, is the species most commonly used. Taken from the wild, these bears spend the remainder of their lives in tiny, barren cages where their bile is periodically extracted from their gall bladders using a syringe. It is estimated that around 12,000 bears are in captivity all across Asia because people believe that their bile can treat fever, liver conditions, and poor eyesight.
Avoid purchasing TCM medicinal products unless you are absolutely sure that they do not contain any animal parts. Instead, look for synthetic or herbal alternatives.
For centuries, hawksbill sea turtles were killed for their beautiful mottled "tortoise" shells, which were used to make jewellery, decorative combs and hairpins, forks and spoons, and statuettes. The hawksbill population crashed, and has never recovered. Since 1975, hawksbill sea turtles have been fully protected from international trade by CITES (aside from an exception to this rule which allowed Japan to trade in hawksbill shells until 1993). Regardless, many hawksbills are still killed, and products made from hawksbill shells are still sold in tourist markets worldwide.
FOOD ITEMS AND DISHES
You may have travelled only as far as your corner restaurant, or you may be dining in an eatery halfway around the world. However far you have roamed for your meal, you can make choices that affect wild animals.
There is a growing trend in fashionable restaurants: exotic fare. Lions, monkeys, turtles, sharks, frogs and snakes are only a few of the species that may appear on global menus. In some cases, restaurants are offering species on the brink of extinction because of over hunting or overfishing. Even if they aren' t rare, their capture may have damaged habitat. And in many cases, individual animals have suffered in captivity prior to being killed for food. Avoid frequenting establishments that advertise and serve these dishes and be sure to let these restaurants know why you have chosen not to patronize them.
Bushmeat is meat from terrestrial wild animals found generally in tropical areas like South America, Asia and Africa. Wildlife is killed for subsistence purposes but also for commercial trade. The meat may be exported to countries where people value exotic food such as monkey limbs or tiger paws as delicacies. All kinds of wildlife are killed for their meat, including threatened and endangered species. Elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, antelopes, crocodiles, porcupines, bush pigs, tigers, hippos, lions, leopards and more are all victims of the bushmeat trade.
Primates make up only a small percentage of the bushmeat trade, but the effect on their already vulnerable populations is devastating. Additionally, the use of wire snares to capture wildlife is widespread, especially in Africa. Snares are incredibly painful and can also kill non-target wildlife. Not only is bushmeat inhumane and harmful to wildlife populations, but it is harmful to humans as well since the hunting, butchering and eating of bushmeat puts people at an increased risk of contracting zoonotic diseases.
It may be difficult to figure out what is on the menu if you are traveling in a foreign country, but if it seems exotic, make sure to ask questions or simply avoid it altogether.
To read more about bushmeat click here. Or find out how HSI works to protect chimpanzees from the bushmeat trade.
Shark fin soup
Every year, tens of millions of sharks are hunted to meet the demand for shark fin soup, a cruel and wasteful ' luxury' dish. After their fins are removed, the animals are thrown back into the water to die slowly and painfully. Finning is not only inhumane; it allows sharks to be caught in unsustainable numbers. Curbing the demand is the best way to stop finning' do not purchase or consume products made with shark fins.
Whale and dolphin meat
A handful of countries still kill thousands of whales and dolphins annually, despite international protests. While some of the hunts are done under the guise of ' research,' the meat still ends up for sale in markets. Not only are the killing methods inhumane and many of the quotas unsustainable, meat from many of these species is contaminated with mercury and other toxins and therefore unhealthy for human consumption. Countries where you are likely to find whale and dolphin meat for sale include Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Japan,Korea and the Philippines, and even some Caribbean islands, such as Bequia.
- the exotic pet trade,
- biomedical research and teaching,
- and stocking of public or private game farms and hunting ranches.