Shocking new research has revealed a majority of the world’s travel trade associations are doing nothing to prevent wildlife cruelty in tourism.
The research, which was commissioned by World Animal Protection, shows just 21 of the 62 travel trade associations researched had a page on their websites about sustainable tourism and of the 21 associations, only six communicate anything at all about animal welfare.
This is particularly shocking considering the industry’s recent pushback against cruel wildlife tourism practices, with many operators now choosing not to offer activities that promote cruel practices such as elephant riding or dolphin swims.
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.
According to Wolrd Animal Protection, more than 550,000 captive wild animals worldwide, including elephants, sloths, tigers and dolphins endure appalling cruelty for tourist entertainment.
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.
“This is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed to ensure wild animals are not used for cruel tourist entertainment,” said Nick Stewart, Head of Wildlife Not Entertainers at World Animal Protection.
“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 members and to monitor these to promote animal-friendly tourism.
They would also like to see associations 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.