Brown horse with blinkers, resting by a cart in Marrakech

Ethical Animal Tourism

For those interested in ethical tourism, The SPANA Holiday Hooves Guide is packed full of advice on how you can choose healthy looking donkeys, horses, mules and camels for activities abroad.

Activities like a camel safari, donkey ride or a horse-drawn carriage tour can be a unique way to see a different country on holiday and thousands enjoy these excursions every year.

Thousands of donkeys, horses, mules and camels are used in the tourism industry worldwide to transport holidaymakers on rides, treks and tours. These animals generate a livelihood for their owners, ensuring that they are able to earn an income to support their families.

But despite the relentless hard work of animals pulling carriages or carrying tourists and luggage, they can be poorly treated, neglected and beaten. Also many do not receive any veterinary care in the event of illness or injury, which can lead to serious health and welfare issues.

Ethical tourism: You can make a difference

As a tourist, you are in the unique position to positively influence the way owners treat their animals. By following our Holiday Hooves guide, you can choose to support the owners who treat and care for their animals with kindness and respect. In turn, this will encourage others to do the same.

These guidelines are designed to help you choose the most responsible animal tour providers and give you advice on what you can do if you see animals mistreated abroad. It shows six ways for holidaymakers to improve the lives of working donkeys, horses, mules and camels used in the tourism industry abroad.

Download a copy of Holiday Hooves, our ethical animal tourism guide, contact us to receive your free printed copy, or watch the video below.

Have you come across mistreated animals that you need to report? Download this list of tourism board addresses to find out who to contact.

Whether you are booking a horse-drawn carriage trip, a donkey ride, a camel safari, or a pack mule mountain trek, follow the Holiday Hooves Guide.

  1. Select your steed
    • Choose the animal which appears fit, healthy and in good condition – you should not be able to see prominent hips or back bones and they should be able to walk comfortably without limping
    • Avoid animals with wounds around the mouth, saddle, harness or noseband
    • Never ride an animal with excessively tight hobbles or tethers – you’ll be able to see scars or wounds around its legs where they have been tied too tightly
    • Avoid camels with patchy or bald skin, which can be signs of contagious mange – and don’t ride camels with obvious signs of diarrhoea around the tail and back legs
    • Ask your hotel or holiday company representative for their recommendations of responsible tour providers who appear to treat their animals with kindness and respect
  2. Don’t walk the hind legs off a donkey
    • Donkeys, horses and mules should only carry one person at a time
    • Consider your own size and weight when selecting an animal to ride. For example if you are tall and broad, choose a larger animal. If you think you might be too large for an animal to take your weight – don’t get on it!
    • If you are going on a carriage ride, ask that the animals are driven at a speed no faster than a trotting pace to prevent the carriage from injuring their legs when it stops
  3. Don’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back
    • Avoid tour providers that appear to overload their camels. An average adult camel should carry a maximum load of 150kg – equivalent to two people each weighing 12 stone. If in doubt, insist that each camel carries only one person.
  4. Back the best horse
    • Praise your chosen tour provider for treating their animals well and explain why you have given them your trade
    • Ensure that you pay a fair price for your trip, ride or tour. This money will not only help the owner to earn a living, but will ultimately allow them to care for their animal.
  5. Do some donkey work
    • Help to spread the word about the Holiday Hooves Guide and tell your fellow tourists how they can positively influence the treatment of animals overseas
    • Recommend responsible tour providers to other tourists you meet, friends and family, and online via sites such as Trip Advisor
  6. Get on your high horse
    • If you see an animal in urgent need of medical attention, try to contact a local vet. If you can’t speak the language ask your hotel or holiday rep if they can help. Some vets will treat animals for free, but beware that others may ask you for payment.
    • If you have any animal welfare concerns on holiday, report what you saw by writing to the relevant country tourism board. A list of some tourism board addresses can be downloaded at spana.org/tourism.
    • Encourage your holiday company to adopt a responsible tourism policy that promotes good standards of animal welfare