A close up photograph of an elephant's face. The eyes can be seen in great detail.

Exposed: the dark reality of profit-driven wildlife farms


Research by World Animal Protection highlights the billions of wild animals suffering on wildlife farms, bred for pets, tourism, hunting, and traditional medicine.

In a report released today, World Animal Protection exposes the dark reality of profit-driven wildlife farms, shedding light on the cruel conditions faced by an estimated 5.5 billion wild animals globally.  

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Read the report summary

The research, titled "Bred for profit: The truth about global wildlife farming," unveils the vast scale of an exploitative industry where wild animals are bred for various purposes, including pets, tourism, hunting, fashion, and traditional medicine. 

Researchers found a significant lack of transparency and insufficient monitoring within this global multi-billion-dollar industry. Sentient animals are often regarded as mere components in a harsh and cruel production line. World Animal Protection has an extensive history of involvement in various exploitative industries and is aware that a considerable number of wild animals endure shocking conditions where they suffer from malnourishment, disease, stress-related behaviours, injuries, infections - and even cannibalism.

People are bathing, washing and interacting with an elephant. One of the people is sitting on the elephant's trunk.

Elephants bred for the tourism industry are suffering on a daily basis

Elephants suffer on a daily basis to entertain tourists. Please sign our petition asking the Thai government to put a breeding ban in place that would stop more elephants being born into a life of chains and hooks for tourist entertainment.

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The report, assembled through Freedom of Information requests and additional research, also outlines the risks associated with the high population of animals living in cramped, unsanitary conditions. This puts their caretakers and the public at an increased risk of zoonic diseases – potentially to pandemic proportions. Our research found very little evidence to support claims by some conservationists that breeding programmes fulfil the demand for wildlife products and reduce pressure on wild populations.

Shockingly, some captive wildlife populations are now larger than those living free.

Case studies in the report detail some of the industries where urgent action is needed – including:

  • Bear farming in China - where some 20,000 bears are farmed for their bile on dozens of farms to sate the demand of the US$1 billion bear bile industry in China.
  • Elephant breeding in Thailand - where the majority of nearly 3,000 elephants are bred in captivity and used in 246 venues for tourism, generating between US$581 to US$770 million annually.  Between 2010 and 2020 the number of elephant venues increased by a staggering 134%.
  • Lion and other big cat farming in South Africa – where approximately 8,000 big cats are bred at 366 known facilities and used for multiple purposes in the U$43 million industry, including for tourist entertainment, trophy hunting and body parts exported to Asia for traditional medicine. 

Launching our global Wildlife Not Profit campaign, World Animal Protection’s Wildlife Campaign Director, Nick Stewart said:

Whether it be for the pet industry, trophy hunting, entertainment, traditional medicine, decoration, or fashion – cruel wildlife farming must end now.   Wild animals have the right to a wild life. Governments, the private sector, and us as consumers must prioritise efforts to ensure that wildlife is protected in their natural habitats. The public must also be guarded against the very real threat of zoonotic diseases from wildlife farms.

Stewart added: This must be the last generation of wild animals farmed for profit. Wildlife is not ours to exploit, and we can all play a part in protecting animals from cruel commercial exploitation. Join us in saying no to the cruel farming of wild animals. 

 World Animal Protection is urging governments worldwide to take immediate action by implementing a comprehensive and timely phase out of commercial wildlife farms and associated trade.  

 Additionally, we are calling for increased support for alternative livelihoods for those communities currently involved in the wildlife farming industry, to ensure a just transition away from these harmful practices. 

Sign the petition to ban elephant breeding in Thailand
Members of the public can support our Wildlife Not Profit campaign today by signing our petition calling on the Thai government to ban elephant breeding in captivity and improve the welfare of captive elephants.  

Sign the petition now

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