A selfie with a slow loris or a lion cub. The difference isn’t as great as you’d think.

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  16. 01. 2018

When Slovak rapper Rytmus recently added a picture to his Instagram account showing him with a slow loris while on an exotic holiday, he soon reaped a whirlwind of criticism. He inadvertently became the face of a Facebook campaign calling for a boycott of selfies with “cute animals”.

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Taking selfies “with animals” is a topical issue. Throughout the world local entrepreneurs keep various kinds of “cute” animals that they offer to tourists for a fee to take their picture. Generally, they are individuals taken from the wild, and quite often they are also endangered species that suffer greatly whilst being exploited in these dubious trades. They usually die, sooner rather than later. In the case of the slow loris, it is said that they remove the males’ teeth, without anaesthetic, so that they don’t bite the tourists. Up to 90% of them don’t survive this procedure.

So it is because of people who, like Rytmus, have no idea about the background to the trade, that Instagram and other social networks have been dragged into the fight for the rights of animals abused in this manner. Now when you share a photo and click on a hashtag to indicate that it is a picture of an animal, you will get a warning that you are doing may not be entirely ethical. Naturally, the media took it up, and thus the message “don’t take a photo with animals while on holiday” has got into the nation’s consciousness.

Somehow, however, we forget the fact that animals are not only misused like this by people in tourist destinations, but also by our fellow citizens. By that, I mean the various “petting zoos” where lion cubs, for example, are only purchased to go from hand to hand so as to make money. Who cares that they become mentally crippled? No one, unfortunately. It is easier to fight for the protection of nature and animal rights in far-away places rather than on our own doorstep.