Associated with cruelty: How travel trade associations are ignoring wild animal abuse

Shockingly high number of travel trade associations lagging in providing animal welfare guidelines to travel companies

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Research launched today exposes a shockingly high number of the world’s travel trade associations lagging in providing animal welfare guidelines to travel companies, with the majority of associations doing nothing to prevent wildlife cruelty in tourism.

Research commissioned by World Animal Protection from the University of Surrey shows:

• Just 21 of the 62 travel trade associations researched had a page on their websites on sustainable tourism.

• Of these 21 travel associations, only six are communicating anything at all about animal welfare.

• Out of the six, only two travel trade associations and one tourism standard setting body had animal welfare guidelines or criteria as part of their sustainability programmes. These three included; ABTA (UK’s largest travel association), ANVR (Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators) and GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council).

• Only one travel trade association (ANVR) is doing any monitoring of its members to check if they implement guidelines or not.

• Alarmingly, 16 associations in both their literature and on their websites featured promotional pictures of wild animals, in many cases being cruelly used to interact with tourists.

ABTA, ANVR and GSTChave each set animal welfare guidelines or criteria but the research shows that particularly for ABTA, there is need for improvement.This is because ABTA’s guidelines are seen as the de facto industry standards, but at the same time are considered vague, inconsistent and while designed to inform members, lack enforcement mechanisms.

More than 550,000 captive wild animals worldwide, including elephants, sloths, tigers and dolphins endure appalling cruelty for tourist entertainment[i]. For most wild animals, the cruelty involves being snatched from the wild; ‘trained’ with beatings, living in severely inadequate conditions, being chained and isolated. These wild animals are forced to have contact with people, often causing them psychological trauma.

There are also major health and safety risks to tourists participating in wild animal attractions – In Thailand alone,17 fatalities and 21 serious injuries were reported in venues with captive elephants in Thailand between 2010 and 2016.

Nick Stewart, Head of Wildlife Not Entertainers at World Animal Protection says:

“This is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed to ensure wild animals are not used for cruel tourist entertainment. Travel associations must step up, take action and commit to protecting wildlife.

“Following these research findings, we hope that travel associations will review their animal welfare guidelines. These associations must listen to their members and use this as an opportunity to lead the travel industry to fully commit to protecting wildlife.”

World Animal Protection is calling on travel associations to:

• Set strong animal welfare guideline for their members and to monitor these to promote animal friendly tourism

• Categorise elephant-riding and all other direct interaction between wild animals and tourists, and any forced performance with wild animals, as unacceptable.

There is a growing movement demanding wild animals are no longer used in entertainment. Over 1.6 million people and over 200 tour companies have signed World Animal Protection’s animal friendly travel pledge, and travel companies committing to stop selling or promoting venues that offer elephant rides and shows. This signals there is a demand to phase out cruel wildlife attractions, like elephant riding, dolphinariums, and tiger selfies.