How to Find Ethical Animal Attractions

Getting to experience your favourite furry friends up close and personal is an exciting prospect – but ensuring you do so in an ethical, educative manner can be tricky. Read our suggested ways to avoid the pitfalls and see animals ethically in the UK. 

The much-anticipated release of The Lion King has us planning our next animal adventure – both on screen and in real life. But if Blackfish has taught us anything, it’s that visiting animal attractions raises ethical questions about conservation, conditions and natural habitats that need to be addressed.

Virgin Holidays has stopped selling tickets to SeaWorld amidst concerns about animal welfare and awareness around the training of elephants for tourism rides in Southern Asia has risen greatly in recent years, but when it comes to finding a way to experience animals up close and personal closer to home, it’s not necessarily as clear what you should be looking out for.

Here’s our conscious guide to seeing animals ethically in the UK:

Champion conservation

The UK Government requires all zoo operators to meet at least one of their conservation requirements, such as conducting conservation research or training, or breeding wild animals in captivity. Some zoos and animal parks do this better than others and champion conservation efforts, such as Howletts Wild Animal Park near Canterbury and Port Lympne near Folkestone, both run in conjuction with The Aspinall Foundation. This conservation charity works to halt the extinction of endangered species and be world leaders in its animal husbandry and breeding programmes.  

Visit David Attenborough’s favourite place to see ‘magnificent nature’

Off the coast of Northumberland, The Farne Islands are home to a colony of grey seals. Pups are born throughout the autumn and winter months but if you visit in the summer, you can behold an unrivalled seabird colony including more than 40,000 pairs of puffins. The islands, which are protected by the National Trust, can be a little tricky to get to, so be sure to plan your visit ahead of time.

Swim with humpback whales – in VR

If the real thing isn’t an option, why not encounter your favourite mammals through the magic of virtual reality? Immotion combines technology, animation and virtual reality to bring you breath-taking simulation experiences. Available in Manchester, Los Angeles and Dubai, book in for something a little different this summer. 

Visit an EAZA member zoo or aquarium

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has been funding and supporting education, research and conversation within the zoological community for more than 25 years. To become a member, zoos or aquariums within Europe and the Middle East have to maintain suitable standards and there are currently more than 410 member institutions empowering visitors to contribute to global biodiversity conservation goals.

Find your nearest EAZA member through the interactive map.

Support grassroots farms and gardens

Keep travel to a minimum and support a local community-run project. Social Farms & Gardens supports projects across the UK including school and community farms and wildlife gardens. Search by region to find places nearby, check which animals you can see there and what facilities are on offer.

Watch the Wildlife Aid Foundation at work

The Wildlife Aid Foundation dedicates itself to rescuing, caring for and rehabilitating animals to return to their natural environment. Like several other small rescue centres and charities, the Foundation holds an annual open day rather than being open to the public year-round. However, if you miss the open day you can still get involved by watching the team at work via webcam or getting involved with their Hedgehog Release programme.   


Swot up your animal knowledge with these can’t miss animal documentaries and need to know facts about the illegal wildlife trade

If you need more David Attenborough-style motivation in your life, check out his best speechesquotes, and everything he’s ever given his name to.

For a trip with a difference, book a marine conservation holiday or visit one of the best eco resorts and hotels on the planet.