As Abta prepares to hold its first animal welfare conference, TTG asks why the issue is so vital and how the travel trade can navigate this potential ‘minefield’.
Animal welfare issues in travel are at “a tipping point” as public awareness increases, a leading expert believes.
Daniel Turner, director of consultancy Animondial, said issues that had concerned him for more than a decade were now coming to prominence generally.
“The public is becoming more aware of certain issues of animal welfare. Animals have taken time to get to the top of the list; it has until now been very much about energy consumption, waste management, local communities and climate change. It’s been a slog to get animals to the top,” he said.
Turner will moderate Abta’s Animal Welfare in Tourism Training seminar, which is being held in partnership with TTG on February 28. He said it would provide agents and operators with a “toolbox” for how to approach animal issues at all levels of their organisation.
He described animal welfare as a “minefield” for travel companies, which had often been the target of single-issue campaigns by animal charities.
“The approach has been naming and shaming. Then you assume the traveller knows the issues. Most of the time, they don’t.” Turner said it was wrong to target specific issues and argued that a collaborative approach worked better.
“The approach needs to be more educational and pragmatic. Saying ‘let’s focus on this issue this year’ does nothing for the animals on the ground. It’s about ensuring travel companies have the tools to implement standards and safeguarding any livelihood issues.”
He highlighted campaigns against elephant-riding attractions as an example. “A lot of operators started selling elephant interaction instead. But that has similar implications for the welfare of the animal because they still have to be broken in, so there needs to be more information made available for tourists and operators to have the bigger picture.”
He added: “The key focus for me is on the supplier companies or ground agent, because they are offering the excursion to whichever travel company wants to sell their product.” This, he said, meant animals would be protected irrespective of whether tourists visiting the attraction came from the UK or China.
Turner urged agents and operators to attend Abta’s seminar. “I think Abta’s approach in providing the first ever training in the world to talk about the broader issues is definitely the right way forward,” he said.