A HORRIFIED Cupar animal lover is urging holiday-makers heading for the Far East to boycott some tourist attractions after witnessing first-hand the 'heartbreaking' impact of the cruelty that takes place in the name of entertainment.
Grandmother Marion MacDonald recently returned from a working trip to a wildlife rescue centre in Thailand, set up to help rehabilitate animals exploited for the tourist industry or rescued from illegal wildlife traders who use their body parts for 'traditional' Chinese medicines and exotic dishes or to make fur coats.
Situated in Petchaburi, north of Bangkok, the centre was established in 2001 and is greatly dependent on the help of international volunteers like Marion, who pay for their stay.
Marion said: "Many of the animals have severe behavioural problems when they come in such as self-mutilating and they are often malnourished.
"One particularly distressing case was that of a Bengal tiger, which had been born on a tiger farm and taken from its mother.
"He had been de-clawed and castrated before being bought by the owner of a garage, who chained him up outside to encourage business.
"He was only fed scraps so when he went into the centre he was very weak and needed intensive care.
"I also helped care for two civet cats who'd been rescued from a restaurant where they would have been served as 'exotic meat', and another one who was blind because she'd been kept in a small dirty cage at a temple and was malnourished.
"Then there were Poppy and Peanut, two Malayan Sun bears which had been chained down to a wooden platform so that tourists could have their picture taken with them, and Bouncer, and Asiatic black bear who'd had to have a leg amputated after being caught in a trap by poachers when he was a cub.
"Primates used in the tourist industry are kept in horrendous conditions in a tiny cage where they can't even stretch their legs.
"They're fed on scraps and are taunted and forced to dance.
"But what I found most heartbreaking was the cruelty and abuse of elephants, who often have nails hammered into their feet and are beaten with bullhooks to make them 'dance'.
"Sometimes they have big wooden structure strapped on to their backs with seats for six people, which results in deformities.
"It's so desperately sad and I want to help raise awareness of the suffering that the poor elephant has to endure at the hands of man.
"Many of these cruel practices would die out if there wasn't a demand for them, so I'd like to appeal to anyone thinking of going on holiday to Asia to demonstrate their feelings and avoid these so-called tourist attractions.
"I'd also urge them to stay away from the tiger temples, which are supposed to be sanctuaries but are anything but.
"I was horrified by the cruelty inflicted on the tigers by the monks who run these places."
As well as giving practical help, Marion was able to make a donation of 26,000 Thai baht (just over 500), thanks to the generosity of people in Cupar.
She said: "The money will make a huge difference to the centre and I'm very grateful to everyone who donated."