Elephant Rides Are Among Unacceptable Practices In The Association Of British Travel Agents’ Newest Edition Of Animal Welfare Guidelines

The Association Of British Travel Agents (ABTA) is launching the second edition of its Animal Welfare Guidelines after a comprehensive stakeholder review. The new updates include revised basic welfare requirements and unacceptable behaviors while making them simpler and easier to understand.

In ABTA’s latest Holiday Habits research, 66% of people surveyed shared that they have concerns about the wider impacts of tourism and how animals are treated. This needs to be managed in the right way to safeguard the welfare of animals.

ABTA’s first edition of its Animal Welfare Guidelines launched in 2013 with the aim of providing guidance for ABTA Member companies and their suppliers throughout the world helping to raise standards. The revisions have been developed through ABTA’s Animal Welfare Working Group and a multi-stakeholder consultation process involving industry experts, scientists, zoologist organizations, associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world, as part of ABTA’s commitment to raising standards in animal welfare.

The updated manuals include: Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, Animals in Captive EnvironmentsWildlife Viewing, Working Animals and Unacceptable Practices.

The Dolphins in Captive Environments manual is under review and there will be further consultation on the subject, taking into account the latest ongoing developments and research even though dolphins do not belong in captivity. 

In addition to the revised basic welfare requirements, the updates in the guidelines replace previous categorizations with revised unacceptable practices that include tourist contact or feeding of great apes, bears, crocodiles or alligators, elephants without a barrier, orcas, sloths, as well as contact, feeding and walking with wild cats. New guidance sections on ‘Food and animal welfare, ‘Management of stray animals and ‘Developing an animal welfare approach’ have also been added.

ABTA encourages travel companies to either not offer, or move away from, unacceptable practices. ABTA is very aware that no longer selling an attraction does not mean that animal welfare issues go away. Working with suppliers to transition away from unacceptable practices can take time.   

“ABTA Members have led the way on animal welfare by implementing ABTA’s guidelines for a number of years, and others in the industry from around the world use ABTA’s guidelines as the basis for their animal welfare policies,” Clare Jenkinson, ABTA’s Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager, said in a statement. “Naturally, with the emergence of new evidence, thinking evolves on what constitutes a basic requirement or an unacceptable practice.” 

Julie Middelkoop, Campaign Leader for World Animal Protection, said: “We are delighted that ABTA has heard the consortium of animal protection NGOs working together on this issue. This has resulted in updated animal welfare guidelines that reflect the latest evidence with more harmful animal related tourist activities now labelled unacceptable. Although still voluntary, this and the improved clarity of the guidelines will ensure greater uptake by travel companies.

“The clear advice that it is unacceptable to use elephants for rides, shows, bathing or any other form of tourist contact without a barrier is a real breakthrough. We are equally thrilled to see that other harmful tourist experiences such as selfies with sloths in the Amazon, feeding orangutans and walking with lions in southern Africa have the same listing.”   

World Animal Protection, World Cetacean Alliance, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Humane Society International and Born Free Foundation are among the animal welfare organizations committed to continue working with ABTA to ensure that their guidelines around captive whales and dolphins are updated as well.

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