Loopholes and mixed messages: updated TripAdvisor animal welfare policy falls short for wildlife

25 April 2018

The world’s largest travel site has taken a step forward by ending sales of tickets to some animal shows. However, its updated policy, launched on 25 April, creates a loophole by only excluding performances which are deemed demeaning or unnatural. We’re urging TripAdvisor to take a stronger stance

Header image: Quadtripplea via Wikimedia Commons

By continuing to sell animal performances that include supposed ‘natural behaviours’, TripAdvisor is ultimately supporting wildlife cruelty.

A natural behaviour is not defined by a specific body movement or action. Rather, it means an animal can choose to carry out a certain activity in their natural environment.

A performance relying on trained behaviour in an artificial environment only provides a hollow simulation of a natural situation.

Cruel training

Forcing a dolphin to convert from hunter to scavenger by performing tricks for food is not an example of natural behaviour. Making a tiger run in a circle during a show does not showcase a natural behaviour, just because tigers run in the wild.

Using the flawed idea of ‘natural behaviours’ in its policy, TripAdvisor has created a significant grey area so it can continue to sell tickets to cruel wildlife tourist attractions – and wild animals are paying the price.

Falling behind

In 2016, TripAdvisor and its parent company, Viator, stopped selling experiences where travellers come into physical contact with captive wild animals, after more than half a million people signed our petition.

This was a huge victory for our supporters and a groundbreaking example for other travel companies. But with this latest policy update TripAdvisor runs the risk of falling behind again in the travel industry.

TripAdvisor is following the Association of British Travel Agents's (ABTA) Global Guidance for Animals in Tourism. We’ve been calling on ABTA to improve its guidelines, in particular its standards for dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity.

TripAdvisor must close loopholes

We want TripAdvisor to remove the sale and promotion of all wildlife entertainment attractions.

The travel industry is learning fast that using wild animals for entertainment is cruel, and TripAdvisor needs to continue to take the lead. These animals are often taken from their mothers at a young age. They’re subjected to poor living conditions and endure harsh training regimes to make them perform to entertain tourists.

Two captive bottlenose dolphins jump out of their tank for a treat during an aquatic mammal show

The loopholes in the latest policy allow many cruel wildlife entertainment attractions to be seen as acceptable. Ultimately, the policy will lead tourists to believe these attractions are not cruel, further damaging the future of animal welfare.

The new animal welfare policy falls short of what it’s intended to do: protect wild animals.

The message the travel site is sending out is conflicted. It is continuing to promote and sell tickets to some of the world’s cruelest wildlife attractions, such as dolphin shows, whilst banning others like elephant rides. It simply doesn't make sense.

So much potential 

TripAdvisor has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of wild animals by educating its customers. It should take a clear stance on what is good practice and promote wildlife friendly alternatives instead, such as watching whales and dolphins responsibly in the wild.

This is where TripAdvisor could make a real impact. If no further changes are made to TripAdvisor’s policy, wild animals will continue to suffer, and it will fall behind while other travel companies take the lead.

Push TripAdvisor to remove policy violations

Just 24 hours since the new policy was announced, we found numerous examples of cruel wildlife attractions on sale, including elephant rides, swimming with dolphins, walking with lions, elephant circus shows and orangutan boxing matches.

TripAdvisor’s education portal states: ‘If you see an attraction experience being sold on TripAdvisor that you believe is in violation of policy, please let us know by emailing awpolicyreview@tripadvisor.com.’

Please contact TripAdvisor if you see any attractions listed that fail to meet its standards. We would also love you to share your thoughts on the latest policy update with TripAdvisor at the same email address, urging it to completely stop promoting and selling tickets to all cruel wildlife entertainment attractions.

Read our report about the cruelty marine mammals face in captivity, which we created with Humane Society US.

The new animal welfare policy falls short of what it’s intended to do: protect wild animals.

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