Recently, I have seen on social media several posts and stories with humans who are hugging or playing with wild animals such as lions, minks, reptiles or even monkeys as pets.

All these people who post this stuff are vegan.

The only ones who reacted normally, with maturity and wisdom to my message against this kind of posts, were a newborn antispeciesist team of activists who also decided to delete the video that included the hug with the lion and wrote a story explaining why they deleted it. And these are the youngest. All the others, people 20 years older were trying to explain (the explainable), to argue in defend to these posts, giving me the impression of people who are living in a parallel universe – romanticism at its worse. And it’s not that I have no idea of what I am talking about.

Yes, indeed, minks are NOT here in order for us to breed them and slaughter them for their fur – however this does NOT mean that they are here for us to pet and hug them.

Yes, indeed, lions can become friends with the humans who rescue them but if these humans were having an ecocentric (instead of egocentric) point of view, they would NOT pet them nor raise them with hugs and cuddles.

Why is it that people do not get that if wild animals want cuddles, then they have “degenerated”?

Below you can see examples of people who raised lions and at the end the lions attacked them (as a result, the lions were then killed):


2.Three lions were killed after they attacked and killed their owner. Read the whole story here.

As Fiona Miles,director of FOUR PAWS animal welfare foundation stated: “These attacks can be avoided by not allowing any unnecessary human-wildlife interaction and the fact remains that no matter how tame they may seem, lions remain instinctive. ‘The predator’s instinct will seek out certain characteristics and identify easy prey such as the small, weak, slow and sick. ‘What seems to happen with captive animals where interaction is regular is that they reach a breaking point and lash out. ‘About 60% of attacks on humans due to predator interaction involve captive bred lions.”

!! By the way, there are 3 times more lions in captivity than free in nature  !!

This is a well known organization among animal lovers. They have rescued so many animals from abandoned zoos in warzones, from illegal owners, from circuses etc. and they then find them sanctuaries to live their rest of their lives. They NEVER treated these animals with a hands – on policy. They could but they don’t do it. Why? Well because when you really love animals, you DON’T WANT to pet or touch them, you just want to see them experiencing beautiful moments with other individuals of their own species.

To my make myself clear here, please do not think that I am pretending someone who knows everything nor that this is the way I was always thinking. On the contrary, on 2006 I went to a dolphinaria in Valencia but on 2009 I participated in an eco-volunteering trip for dolphin & sperm whale observation and at that point, the people of Pelagos Cetacean Institute opened my eyes and they explained me that dolphins are suffering in captivity. Today, you can watch at the homepage of Ethos & Empathy the TV spot against dolphin (and in general wild animal) captivity for the production of which I was partly a coordinator.

Later on, on 2008 I went to volunteer for 3 months at a zoo near Athens. There, during my volunteer experience I hugged baby pumas, who were raised with the baby bottle because their mother did not have milk (at least this is what they were saying). I was even “forced” to pet a wild feline who arrived at the park some time before my resignation, because as one member of their staff claimed “it has been trained to receive caresses, he will sit”. And indeed he sitted, but I felt disgusted with myself at that very moment because I could see the hatred in his eyes, I saw how much he did NOT want to receive caresses. Furtheremore, an otter was coming in my shirt and liked to play very much with humans. In addition, I entered the cage of the wolves and I fed them with my own hands as I did with the lynx as I was doing with the monkeys and they were jumping on top of me. I even petted the male lion… These and many more experiences I got throughout my volunteer time over there. It was an experience that In the beginning I was considering as super cool and I was having the mindset back then of “zoos are trying to conserve the biodiversity”. AND THEN I WOKE UP and left – because I realized that nothing is as it seems in zoos, and that if they indeed would care about animals, they would not be selling tickets. Ever since I left, I am in their black list and they consider of me as the crazy ex volunteer who lost her mind and went vegetarian (in the beginning and later on vegan-imagine how extreme this would be in their minds).

(Disclaimer: FYI no wild animal has soft fur like the fur domesticated animals have so you don’t even get to enjoy the caresse)

Nevertheless, when I went to volunteer at MOm‘s rescue center in Alonissos (which unfortunately has later on been transfered at the premises of the aforementioned zoo) where I ‘ve been told that I am not allowed to touch the baby seal and that only two people get to touch her, because she should not get used to humans, then I understood. At that point I realized what an egoist I was by that time, how selfish it is to have the will to touch all animals. How human-centered is our way of thinking…

Likewise, when I went in Holland to work as a volunteer for 5 months at Stichting AAP, a primate and small mammal rescue center, I never touched any animal. When I was entering their enclosure, I was not contacting them. The protocoll was strict, that we first close the hatch which connects the 2 spaces and then we enter the side where no animal(s) is/are located in order to clean and leave their food. In fact, this was one of the questions during my interview, if I am aware of the hands-off policy and why is it so important..

The same organization has one more sanctuary in Spain, for felines who are confiscated from circuses or from “inappropriate” zoos that at last get to close down, where they don’t pet or hug the animals either . NO CONTACT with wild animals. Many of them have even grown up in the arms of a human but this is not an arguement to perpetuate the mistake.

I would like you to know that some animals need months or even years in order to get used to another individual of their own species and in order to stop asking human’s attention and start getting close to the individuals of their species. And this is very sad.

Finally I would like to mention one different story that does not include captivity or petting wild animals. It is though a case of an unstable personality who was obsessed with wild animals and wanted to live among them but at the end he paid it with his own life.

I am referring to the case of a man from the States, who lived among Grizzly Bears, in Alasca. He basically spent with them 13 summers. His last moments have been published (acoustic document) and it’s horrifying. A bear of 28 years old killed and partially eaten him and his girlfriend. Of course, authorities killed the bear in order to find their remainings as they also killed a younger bear who happened to be in the area but this 2nd one was eaten by other animals so they did not get to check if she also was “guilty” for their death. Throughout the history of that park, this is the ONLY case of an attack by a bear. 

Now, take some time please to think about it, who’s fault was that? The bear’s or the human’s? And we are talking about a man who was going to schools to defend bears, educate children for the best interest of these animals so locals would stop being afraid of them…But THE WAY he tried to do so was totally wrong.

My problem isn’t humans in these cases, but the poor animals’ horrible endings after reacting naturally. I mean, who gives humans the right to kill them for acting instictive? Do you realize the madness?

This guy was stating that he was feeling better among bears and he had denied the modern world. Well, let me tell you that I have also denied the modern life, I live in isolated villages with very few inhabitants and I feel better when I walk in the forest with my dogs but I would never go live among wolves neither will I ever go bother brown bears (animals on whom I have done my thesis by the way but by installing camera traps, not by bothering them).

So, I don’t understand, why some adult vegans are denying with stubborness to comprehend that it’s WRONG to encourage people to have a hands on relationship with wild animals?

Can we be humble enough and learn to accept our mistakes? It is not such a catastrophe if we do so. It actually is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness. We we will always get educated throughout our life. We will often receive some new information which can make us feel uncomfortable. Let’s take advantage of these opportunities in order to become a better person instead of getting stucked in our old mindset.

As we once realized that we were eating animals who have feelings and rights, as well as their secretions, but stopped doing it because we understood that this was not aligned to our lives, we can realize that we promote images and videos which even though seem to be superficially cute they are actually inherently wrong and it’s time to stop doing so.

I suppose that common sence is not so common at the end of the day though….

BONUS post found by Meat is werd: 19 reasons not to feed or touch wild animals.

BONUS post number 2 found on Animal People Forum: Sharing Video or Images of Humans Interacting with Wildlife Harms Animals

Cover photo taken in Holland, at Stichting APP by Ann-Katrin Zeigner.

Elisabeth Dimitras