Back to my main dilemma at hand - in Thailand there are a couple different elephant farms where elephants have been brought in and live as a way for locals to make money. You can pay a small fee and find yourself riding on the back of an elephant through the jungle, you can ride them to their watering hole and help bathe them. Fun right? Fun for us anyway. But is this a good life for the elephant?
I spoke to a native Thai person here in my city and she agreed with me that it IS sad for the elephants. However, they aren't horribly mistreated. They just don't live their life as an elephant should (in theory). But also, if tourists didn't go to visit these elephants, the locals would do other things with their elephants to make money, like bring them to the edge of the city and set up a temporary camp to make money in a less humane way. And she reminded me that the people of Thailand are very poor and tourists coming to visit is what allows the locals feed their families.
There is also a tiger sanctuary run by monks where you can feed baby tigers and watch them eat and just hang with the young ones all morning. Same moral issues with that place...
I suspect I will end up doing at least one of these. But my conscious feels heavy for those animals all the same.