Becoming care-full: contextualizing moral development among captive elephant volunteer tourists to Thailand

Madyson Taylor, Chris E. Hurst, Michela J. Stinson, Bryan S.R. Grimwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Tourism literature on animal ethics and animal welfare has given scarce consideration to how tourists become enrolled into caring, responsible practices towards animals. The objective of this paper is to contextualize a process of moral development–and specifically the emergence of an ethic of care–through the narratives and experiences of captive elephant volunteer tourists in Thailand. Guided by tenets of ecofeminism and a narrative methodology, our study forefronts how relational experiences prompted compassion and empathy as storied by 12 women volunteers. These volunteer tourists described how they shaped their own moral and ethical patterns through practices of witnessing abuse, questioning moral responsibilities, connecting with elephants, and advocating for improved conditions of captive individuals. As storied by the volunteers, processes of witnessing–questioning–connecting–advocating were deeply transformational, and inspired what we interpret as the development of an ethic of care. The research advances understandings of how intentional, relational engagements that prioritize animal wellbeing have the potential to facilitate among tourists processes of becoming care-full.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ecotourism
Issue number2
Early online date23 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

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