My Four-Legged Journey

Long before there was the four-wheel drive car, travelers hundreds of centuries ago relied on our four-legged friends. Think of biblical voyages as turbaned men astride camels crossed deserts. Or of knights on horseback perfecting chivalry in the medieval ages. Or of Hannibal and his men invading northern Italy from Iberia while riding on war elephants. In many ways, travel in those days was made faster, many tribes were conquered, many wars were won.

Today, animals are of course still used for transport. Whether that's in a remote farm in Ethiopia or in New York's Central Park, opposite ends of society uses the four-legged variety as they see it fit. The former finds it a necessity in the absence of a car while the latter sees it a romantic way of seeing a city in the midst of so many cars. Thus, any beast of burden can mean anywhere from being a form of transport to being a tourist trap.

And we see it all over the world: tourists and travelers being ferried by animals. We rode on horses in Costa Rica to see a waterfall, we rode on a camel in Morocco to see palm groves and we rode on an elephant in Thailand to see some ruins. It definitely adds to the local experience but here's the rub - just like animals working in farms, there's the question if operators treat them humanely. It's the same question that boils when we watch a circus act with animals involved. Do we feel guilty from the pleasure of using them? Or do we help the local economy by using them?

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