Animal tourism evolving slowly, surely
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the tourism giant TripAdvisor declared that it would stop selling tickets to animal attractions and exhibits all over the world that allow tourists to interact with wild and endangered animals. TripAdvisor is the first tourism company that has implemented this ambitious plan with the ultimate goal of reducing the physical and psychological damage experienced by captive animals used as attractions. TripAdvisor has already implemented some of its new policies, mostly through the immediate discontinuation of some ticket sales, but hope to have fully implemented its plan by early next year.
When I first read the New York Times article regarding the company’s changes, I was thrilled. We are constantly reminded of animal abuse and of species going extinct in the wild, while others captive in zoos or private collections, but we do not always hear about animals in tourist attractions that are advertised as an educational attraction but in reality are just forms of profit. I sincerely hope that TripAdvisor’s new policy will force other travel websites and companies to change their own policies, creating a new movement of animal rights activism and reducing the number of wild and endangered animals used to gain profit.
I also really like the fact that TripAdvisor will be placing an emphasis on animal attractions that do offer an educational experience, such as the San Diego Zoo’s giraffe feeding program discussed in the article, where a trained staff member is present and is knowledgeable and can educate kids and adults alike in how to properly interact with. Ideally, I would also like to see the number of exotic pets decrease as a result of such new policies.
While all of this news has been great so far, there are of course some downsides. While People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the World Animal Protection agency (WAP) were both enthusiastic about TripAdvisor’s decision to implement new policy, they pointed out the fact that if someone was really determined to ride an elephant or pet a tiger, people would just go to different travel websites or could even just ask about such attractions on the streets of their destination once there.
To create a large impact on this sector of the economy and discourage this type of behavior from travelers, many more companies will have to implement similar policies. Even then, small independent companies will probably still continue their business. Overall, this is a great first step, but there is still a long way to go until the animal attraction industry changes.