For hundreds of years, captive animals have provided tourists with entertainment in the form of circuses, marine parks and zoos. This has been an incredibly profitable business, generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. But at what cost?
Animals in captivity suffer from health issues, mental problems and shortened lifespans. Not to mention the fact that they are being deprived of their natural habitat, family units and breeding habits. Additionally, several human-wildlife tourism experiences involve drugging or abusing the animal to limit the risk of attack.
However, the tides are starting to change.
Through the work of countless animal welfare organizations, activists and filmmakers all around the world, we are starting to see a shift in the public’s perception of captivity, ultimately impacting the business of captivity.
Over the last few years, several top travel companies, including those listed below, have taken a stand against captivity in one way or another.
1. Virgin Holidays
Virgin Holidays made headlines last month when the company announced they will no longer offer trips to parks that keep whales, dolphins or porpoises captive for human entertainment. The move is part of a larger campaign that works with different groups, including scientists and tour operators, to raise animal welfare standards in the tourism industry. Rather than seeking an immediate shutdown of existing theme parks, their plan is to support ethical sanctuaries and encourage other parks to change their practices and follow suit.
2. British Airways Holidays
Earlier this month, British Airways Holidays announced a new animal welfare policy and wildlife protection initiative. As part of this new program, the travel company will no longer be promoting or selling tickets to attractions in which animals are kept captive. British Airways Holidays is taking it one step further by partnering with Born Free, a wildlife charity aiming to protect natural animals and their ecosystems, and supporting the creation of a new space for rescued big cats in a South African sanctuary.
3. Most US-Airlines
British Airways was just the latest to join the growing list of airlines and travel companies that have cut ties with SeaWorld. Most US-based airlines, including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit, have already dropped SeaWorld from their trip offerings. Two major Canadian airlines, Air Canada and WestJet, also denounced the marine park before the country passed a monumental bill making it illegal to hold a whale, dolphin or porpoise captive.
You could say that TripAdvisor paved the way for the anti-captivity trend within the tourism industry. In 2016, TripAdvisor was the first travel booking site of its size and influence to limit access to attractions with tourist-animal engagement. The company made strides when they announced they would no longer sell tickets to hundreds of attractions where travelers come into contact with wild animals held in captivity, including elephant rides, swimming-with-dolphin experiences and the petting of endangered species like tigers.
Quickly following TripAdvisor’s lead, Expedia announced they would also remove certain activities involving wildlife interactions from the website. Expedia, which also owns Hotels.com, Orbitz, and Travelocity, worked with animal protection groups, like Humane Society International, to review their bookable offerings and remove any that violate animal protection guidelines. The company also launched a Wildlife Tourism Education Portal to educate travelers about animal welfare.
Finally, people are starting to understand that petting a drugged tiger or taking a ride on an abused elephant isn’t educational – and most importantly, it isn’t right.
As we’ve seen, the public’s voice matters. If we agree to stop buying tickets to facilities that keep animals captive, travel companies will have no choice but to remove these attractions from their site, ultimately creating a ripple effect that takes away the profitability of animal exploitation.
What can you do?
Do not participate in activities or excursions that exploit wild animals and take the pledge to support ending captive cetacean exploitation through Born Free!
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