Giving Tuesday, a holiday with its roots in online giving, would seem tailor-made for animal charities. After all, adorable and photogenic critters are the veritable superstars of the Internet. But in my more than 20 years with World Animal Protection, I've found that the world often overlooks the importance of protecting animals and how vital animals actually are to all of us. People are usually unaware of the needless suffering of animals and of the simple actions they can take to change animals' lives for the better.
After disasters, for instance, animals are typically the forgotten victims. But when a crisis hits, the needs of people and animals can't be separated. About 1 billion of the world's poorest people rely on livestock and other animals for transport, food, and income. Human mortality rates in catastrophes are often linked with those of animals, because many people put themselves at risk by refusing to evacuate unless they know their animals are safe. World Animal Protection works to protect animals and their owners before disasters strike via PSAs and preparedness education campaigns. And when a crisis hits, our dedicated response teams head to the field to administer hands-on aid.
To give another example, let's look at animals used in tourist attractions. Activities with wildlife -- from riding elephants to walking with lions, taking selfies with tigers to swimming with dolphins – are popular vacation excursions around the world. But travelers are largely unaware of the cruelty behind the scenes. The brutal truth is that breaking wild animals' spirits to the point that they'll allow interaction with people involves cruelty at every turn: snatching them from their parents in the wild or breeding them in captivity, keeping them in harsh conditions, and beating them to break their wills. Global research we conducted this year revealed a startling result: nearly 50 percent of people who pay for a wild animal experience on vacation do so because they love animals. With the help of supporters, we're raising awareness of the cruelty these animals experience to encourage tourists to choose kinder options, like seeing animals in the wild. And several major international tour operators – including STA Travel and Intrepid – have recently agreed to stop offering elephant rides on their trips.
And just think of the billions of animals in farming around the world! We can make a huge difference for them simply by choosing products made with higher animal welfare standards. In North America, more than 300 million laying hens are confined in tiny cages for their entire lives. Our housing requirements for hens trail much of the world: in the European Union, these cramped battery cages were banned altogether in 2012. By choosing cage-free eggs, we can show food businesses that animal welfare is a top priority to consumers.
It's so exciting to be part of an emerging worldwide movement like #GivingTuesday, which gives us a unique opportunity to remember those less fortunate than we are. I urge you to think of animals this Tuesday. Generous supporters will be matching gifts made to World Animal Protection. And you can also help by making animal-friendly choices in all aspects of your life, from the foods you eat to the trips you take. Together, we'll move the world to protect animals!