Trade urged to call out ‘Selfish Selfies’ and help end animal cruelty  

By Lisa James
Home » Trade urged to call out ‘Selfish Selfies’ and help end animal cruelty  

Animal welfare group Born Free has launched a hard-hitting campaign ahead of the peak summer holiday season urging the end of ‘Selfish Selfies’ that exploit wild animals.

Born Free says many holidaymakers are unaware of the ‘poor conditions and barbaric treatment’ of animals used for photos – and the rise of social media and the need for the ‘perfect selfie’ is ‘perpetuating this brutal, money-making industry’.

The charity says the travel trade must also step up, saying: “There needs to be better regulation of the global travel industry to prohibit the advertising and sale of activities that negatively impact animal welfare.

“Travel companies and tour operators need to ensure that they don’t promote or sell excursions that feature animal photo props and close contact activities with captive wild animals.”

In a report called Selfish Selfies: The Exploitation of Captive Wild Animals for Souvenir Photos, released today, Born Free explains how photo prop animals are often forcibly removed from their mothers as babies; many have teeth and claws removed or wings clipped; are dressed up, chained, tethered or sedated.

Away from the cameras, many live in poor conditions, suffer malnutrition and are not cared for properly.

Constant handling and exposure to sun, noise, camera flashes and crowds add to the stress.

@Born Free

Born Free said: “Many animals used for photo opportunities are the innocent victims of the illegal wildlife trade and are taken from the wild, often using cruel trapping methods, or torn from their family groups.

“Their mothers and other group members may be killed or injured while trying to defend their babies. These terrified, defenceless animals are stuffed into sacks or cages and taken away to be sold. This horrific trade directly impacts the worrying decrease in populations of endangered, threatened and vulnerable species.”

The Born Free report also highlights the risk to humans, both from the spread of disease – such as rabies, hepatitis, botulism and salmonellosis – from animals that are being handled as well as the risk a tourist could be attacked by a captive wild animal.

Born Free Co-Founder and Executive President Will Travers has urged everyone to read the report and to pledge to never have their photo taken with a captive wild animal.

He said: “It seems such an innocent activity and yet, as our report shows, the negative impacts on the health and welfare of the animals involved, and on the people taking part, who risk injury or the possibility of contracting a disease, and who, without realising it, are perpetuating a brutal and cruel activity that causes immense trauma and suffering, can no longer be ignored.

“I also call on all social media platforms to make the publishing of a Selfish Selfie a reportable animal cruelty issue.” 

What tourists and the travel industry can do

Born Free’s advice is:

Firstly, go to and pledge not to take or be involved in a ‘Selfish Selfie’ this summer. Then share that message on social media.

Don’t visit or book excursions to facilities that include close contact or photo opportunities with captive wild animals.

Don’t like or share social media posts showing friends or celebrities posing with captive wild animals.

If you witness animals being used as photo props during an organised tour or excursion, express your disapproval directly to your tour guide or rep. If a hotel, restaurant or other business is involved, complain to the management.

Make a note of the location where photo prop animals were seen. If possible, and it is safe to do so, take a photo or video of the scene. Submit a report via Born Free’s ‘Raise the Red Flag’ online form at

Photo: Aaron Gekoski/Born Free

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