Alyx Elliott, Head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection UK discusses the decision by TripAdvisor to stop selling cruel wildlife tourist attractions and the ones to avoid.
Today, the world woke up to the amazing news that TripAdvisor will stop selling tickets to cruel tourist activities like elephant rides and swimming with dolphins.
It's a huge breakthrough for animals. The fact that a huge business like TripAdvisor has put ethics before profit speaks volumes about how strongly people feel about this issue. Put simply: wild animals are being chained, beaten and broken just so that tourists can ride, hug or take a photo with them. It's unacceptable, and people have had enough.
World Animal Protection has been focussed on TripAdvisor for several months, issuing damning reports into different types of attractions it was promoting, and releasing its Top Ten Cruellest Attractions for animal-loving tourists to avoid. Inspired by the campaign, over 558,000 people signed our petition - and today we've seen that people power has well and truly won the day!
So what next? Of course this is just the latest in a string of victories for animal welfare campaigners who are trying to protect wildlife from cruelty in tourism. In recent months we've seen SeaWorld stopping orca shows and the Tiger Temple in Thailand being shut down, as just two examples.
The world is clearly running out of patience with these types of tourist attractions, and I think it's fair to say that their days are, thankfully, numbered. Over 100 tour operators around the world have now pledged to stop selling elephant rides and shows, and people are speaking out on social media and tourist review sites about their wish to see animals treated with respect.
So, the question that's most on my mind today is this: what's taking all the other tour operators so long? Why haven't they also woken up to the fact that it is no longer acceptable to send their customers to these places, most of whom will have no clue about the terrible conditions the animals suffer?
We trust travel companies when we're planning a holiday. Going away somewhere new is such a precious, exciting time for us all - and we have to put our faith in other people to give us good advice when we're planning what to do and where to go. So it's understandable that when people find out they might have been unwittingly sent somewhere that engages in animal cruelty behind the scenes, people are outraged.
World Animal Protection believes that tour operators have a responsibility to take a stance against animal cruelty on behalf of their customers. We have reached out to many tour operators in recent months and whilst we are now working collaboratively with several of them, sadly others continue to ignore our offer to work together.
We know it's not something that can be fixed overnight, but we do know that it's something that tourists want. And ultimately, it's the right thing to do. I really hope that today's announcement from TripAdvisor inspires those remaining companies to make a change for the better. We'll be contacting them this week to find out…
Alyx Elliott is Head of Campaigns at the global animal welfare charity World Animal Protection UK www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk
Tagged in Animals