Why Are Travel Associations Blatantly Disregarding Animal Cruelty At Wildlife Attractions Worldwide?


World Animal Protection’s (WFPA) new research revealed that a shockingly high number of the world’s travel trade associations are lagging in providing animal welfare guidelines to travel companies. The majority are doing nothing to prevent wildlife cruelty in tourism.

Over 550,000 wild animals are suffering endlessly just to entertain tourists. The research shows that travel associations must do more to protect them.

Orangutans are kept in cages and used for selfies and entertainment at wildlife venues in Bali.

WFPA recently commissioned research from the UK’s University of Surrey and the study showed:

  • 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 what the researchers define as ‘appropriate animal welfare programmes’. The three were; Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) UK’s largest travel association, Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR), and Global Sustainable Tourism Council (CSTC).

  • Only one of the travel trade associations, ANVR, is doing any monitoring of its members to check if they implemented 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

A dolphin surrounded by tourists at an attraction in Bali.

ABTA, ANVR, and GSTC have set animal welfare guidelines or criteria, but WFPA’s research shows that particularly for ABTA, there is considerable room for improvement.

ABTA’s guidelines are seen as ‘de facto’ industry standards, but at the same time are considered vague and inconsistent.

Unacceptable Cruelty 

Captive wild animals worldwide endure appalling cruelty for tourist entertainment, including: elephants, sloths, tigers, and dolphins.

For most wild animals, the cruelty involves being:

  • Stolen from the wild

  • ‘Trained’ by inflicting pain

  • Living in severely inadequate conditions

  • Chained and isolated

These wild animals are forced to have unnatural contact with people, which can cause them psychological trauma.

Ruby, a three-year-old female Bengal tiger, is kept in a barren cage at an entertainment venue in Thailand.

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 campaigns for World Animal Protection said, “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 guidelines for their members and to monitor these to promote animal friendly tourism

  • Categorize 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 more than 200 tour companies have signed World Animal Protections animal friendly travel pledge. This signals there is a demand to phase out cruel wildlife activities like elephant riding, dolphinariums, and tiger selfies.

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