Only a tiny minority of associations are warning operators and agencies about animal cruelty at wildlife attractions.
Over 550,000 wild animals are suffering endlessly just to entertain tourists, claims the international NGO World Animal Protection, whose research shows that “travel associations must do more to protect them”.
“A shockingly high number of the world’s travel trade associations are lagging in providing animal welfare guidelines to travel companies,” the new research says. “The majority are doing nothing to prevent wildlife cruelty in tourism.”
World Animal Protection recently commissioned research from the University of Surrey in the UK, and the study shows that only 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.
And out of these six, only two – and one tourism standards-setting body – have what the researchers define as “appropriate animal welfare programmes”.
These three are the Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR), the UK’s largest travel association ABTA and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (CSTC).
Only one of the travel trade associations, ANVR, is doing any monitoring of its members to check if they implement its guidelines or not.
“Alarmingly, 16 associations in both their literature and on their websites feature promotional pictures of wild animals, in many cases being cruelly used to interact with tourists,” World Animal Protection says.
Captive wild animals worldwide endure what the World Animal Protection describes as “appalling cruelty” for tourist entertainment, including elephants, sloths, tigers and dolphins.
This involves animals being snatched from the wild, ‘trained’ by inflicting pain and living in severely inadequate conditions, chained up and isolated.
These wild animals are forced to have unnatural contact with people, which can cause them psychological trauma, the NGO says. A campaign earlier this year singled out Bali and Lombok for stinging criticism.
There are also risks to tourists. In Thailand alone, 17 fatalities and 21 serious injuries were reported in venues with captive elephants between 2010 and 2016.
World Animal Protection is calling on travel associations to set strong animal welfare guidelines for their members and monitor these to promote animal friendly tourism, and also to categorise elephant-riding and all other direct interaction between wild animals and tourists and any forced performances, as unacceptable.
Over 1.6 million people and more than 200 tour companies have signed the NGO’s animal-friendly travel pledge to phase out cruel wildlife activities like elephant riding, dolphinariums and tiger selfies.