While traveling you are often faced with whether or not to accept customs that are in conflict with your own beliefs. While this is hard to figure out, there are some traditional practices that sustainable travelers should never support.
Buying Products Made From Ivory
Buying souvenirs is often a highlight of any trip and some people get carried away and end up buying products made from ivory. Depending of where you are in the world there are tons of souvenirs made of ivory and international market for ivory is causing serious environmental problems.
Ivory comes from the tusks of elephants, mammoths, walruses, hippos and narwhal. At one time these tusks were traded amongst indigenous people, who used the animals for survival. But the demand for ivory grew so much that custom gave way to commerce. These animal populations have gone down as a result of the ivory trade. Selling/buying ivory is now completely illegal, and there’s never a good reason to do it.
A rural Pakistan popular sport known as bear-baiting has long snubbed by animal rights activists as barbaric. This bloodsport is when bears battle trained fighting dogs for entertainment.
This isn’t designed to be a fair fight. The young bears are captured in the wild at an early age. Their canine teeth are broken, their muzzles are painfully pierced with nose rings (to which chains are attached), and their claws are removed.
With no weapons left at their disposal, the bear is put into a ring with a pack of dogs trained to attack them. The bear suffers and most die from their injuries before they reach the age of eight.
Eating Shark Fin Soup
Shark fin soup, long a symbol of status and generosity in Asia, can cost up to $2000 a bowl depending on the type of shark. But the fin has no nutritional value or impact on the flavor, which is from chicken and ham broth. Over 100 million sharks a year are illegally poached. Most have their fins removed while they are still alive, then they’re put back into the water to die.
Eating Turtle Eggs
Despite being endangered and protected by law, Turtles and their eggs are sold on the black market all the time and frequently eaten by tourists. The extinction of some species (including Leatherback Sea Turtles and Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles) seems inevitable, yet sales of their eggs continue. There are tons of tourists who eat these eggs even though they know they are illegal for this reason.
Travelers on the whole need an overall improvement in awareness about what we buy. Indigenous cultural practices are one thing, but tourism practices focused more on profit than long-term sustainability are another.