Travel associations around the world are shunning animal cruelty. ABTA, the UK’s largest travel association, is the latest to update their guidelines, making it ‘unacceptable’ for member companies to offer tourists direct contact with elephants without a barrier.
Whether taken from the wild or bred in captivity, all elephants used for shows or unprotected close tourist contact will have undergone a traumatic training method known as ‘the crush’. This involves separating a young elephant calf from its mother, keeping it in isolation, depriving it of food and water, and in many cases beating it repeatedly until it can be controlled by fear.
As well as updating their guidelines for elephants in captive environments, ABTA will also now categorise contact or feeding of great apes, bears, crocodiles or alligators, orca, sloths, and wild cats as unacceptable, setting a precedent for other travel associations, companies and governments to follow suit.
There has already been some traction from the travel industry, and ABTA joins ANVR, the Dutch travel trade association, who already adopted guidelines to prohibit direct tourist contact with elephants, walking with lions and many other activities back in 2016.
In October 2019, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) adopted animal interaction guidelines that define activities such as elephant riding and walking with lions as unacceptable.
Julie Middelkoop, World Animal Protection ‘Wildlife Not Entertainers’ global campaigner, said:
“We are delighted that ABTA has heard the consortium of animal protection NGO’s 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 being labelled as ‘unacceptable’. Although still voluntary, this and the improved clarity of the guidelines will ensure greater uptake by travel companies.
Clare Jenkinson, ABTA’s Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager, said:
“Naturally, with the emergence of new evidence, thinking evolves on what constitutes a basic requirement or an unacceptable practice,” she said.
“Thanks to the valued input from many expert stakeholders, the revised guidelines will mean that travel companies can implement animal welfare approaches that reflect the latest evidence, working in partnership with suppliers to raise standards.”
In the next year we will continue to provide ABTA with our expertise alongside other international NGOs including Humane Society International, Born Free Foundation, World Cetacean Alliance and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Work is still needed for the dolphins who are living miserable lives in the name of tourism entertainment. World Animal Protection is therefore committed to continuing to support ABTA to ensure that the guidelines around captive dolphins and other cetaceans will be updated to reflect the latest science, ethics and public attitudes.