Pax Global Media
World Animal Protection Canada is giving some major travel companies that operate in Canada a failing grade for their animal welfare policies, as they continue to sell exploitative animal experiences around the world.
The findings are part of the Tracking the Travel Industry report, released Wednesday (Feb. 15).
Commissioned by World Animal Protection and undertaken by the University of Surrey, the report independently analyzed the public commitments travel companies have, and haven't, made.
Companies reviewed include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Flight Centre, Groupon, Get Your Guide, Klook, The Travel Corporation (TTC), Trip.com, TripAdvisor / Viator, and TUI/Musement.
According to a press release, companies were scored across four key areas:
- Commitment: Availability and quality of published animal welfare policies and how applicable they are to all their brands.
- Targets and performance: Availability and scope of published time bound targets and reports on progress towards meeting animal welfare commitments.
- Changing industry supply: Availability and quality of engagement with suppliers and the overall industry, to implement wildlife-friendly changes.
- Changing consumer demand: Availability and quality of educational animal welfare content and tools to empower consumers to make wildlife-friendly travel choices.
World Animal Protection then checked to see if they offered five groups of common exploitative "animal attractions":
- Elephant attractions such as rides, shows or 'washing' experiences
- Primate attractions such as 'petting' or hand feeding opportunities
- Big cat attractions such as selfies, walk-withs, shows or 'petting' experiences
- Dolphin attractions such as performances or 'swim with' experiences
- Wildlife attractions such as shows, rides or any direct interactive experiences with other wild animal species
A majority of companies reviewed received failing grades for selling exploitative animal experiences and for not encouraging educational, humane and sustainable experiences instead.
Companies that are "severely failing wild animals" include Groupon, GetYourGuide, Trip.com, TUI Musement and Klook, according to the report.
A 2022 Savanta poll found that 84 per cent of Canadians agree that tour operators should avoid activities that cause suffering for wild animals and 62 per cent would not travel with a tour operator if they knew they promoted the use of wild animals in entertainment.
"These companies are not keeping pace with changing attitudes and values over the use of wild animals for entertainment," said Melissa Matlow, World Animal Protection Canada's Campaign Director. "We are asking responsible travellers to join us in urging these travel companies to do better for animals."
Leading the way
The report also acknowledges companies that have taken positive steps for wildlife over recent years, including Airbnb, Booking.com and The Travel Corporation (TTC), which owns 40 travel brands, including Trafalgar and Contiki.
"We recognize the immense potential the travel industry has to change the world for the better. We were proud to partner with World Animal Protection to ensure that our policies protect wildlife and help show that animal-friendly venues can be profitable for local communities in the long-term. We hope that this report and campaign encourages other companies to follow suit," said Shannon Guihan, chief sustainability officer and head of TreadRight for The Travel Corporation.
World Animal Protection has been moving the travel industry to stop sales of wildlife entertainment for more than a decade.
First focusing on stopping offers for elephant rides and shows, the organization says it moved more than 240 travel companies to stop selling elephant rides.
In 2016, for example, TripAdvisor stopped selling tickets to animal attractions where tourists come in physical contact with captive wild animals.
In 2019, World Animal Protection expanded its campaign to end the exploitation of dolphins for entertainment resulting in Expedia, Virgin Holidays, Transat, Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing committing to stop selling captive dolphin tourism.
The full report, Tracking the Travel Industry can be found at worldanimalprotection.ca.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today! Click here to follow PAX on Facebook.