Should you ride an elephant?

Animals in Tourism – report launch

Report launch – Monday 11th December 2017 – House of Commons

Our new report, Animals in Tourism, which is now available to download, will be launched by Steve Reed MP at the House of Commons on Monday 11th December at 7pm. The event is free to attend for Members and anyone who downloads the Report. If you are not a Member you can access the Reports page via button below.

Speakers include

  • Steve Reed OBE MP
  • Mark Watson, Executive Director, Tourism Concern
  • Nick Stewart, Head of Campaigns, World Animal Protection
  • Glen Cousquer, University of Edinburgh
  • Dylan Walker, Chief Executive Officer, World Cetacean Alliance
  • Clare Jenkinson, Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager, ABTA
  • Vicki Brown,  Travel Writer & Editor, Responsible Travel


Animals in Tourism - Report Launch - House of Commons


In many tourism destinations opportunities to view or interact with wildlife are readily available and are very popular with a large number of consumers. These vary from country to country, with each destination having its own legal and cultural attitudes to animal welfare. Animals can be part of festivals, used as street entertainment, in captivity or viewed in the wild. Animals are often intrinsically linked to the livelihoods of local communities – whether directly, such as mahouts or snake charmers or indirectly, such as safaris hosted on indigenous people’s land.

Even well-managed animal tourism such as gorilla trekking, have some negative impacts on the animals. These must be weighed against the income generated from tourism, without which many of these conservation projects would fail. That is why tourists need the information to make informed and better choices when engaging with animals via tourism.

Wildlife tourism accounts for between 20% and 40% of all global tourism with 3.6 million visitors around the world; a figure that is set to increase. Yet, many of these visits have negative consequences for the animals involved. Our new report presents findings from desk-based research, which sought to address the following questions:

  • What are wildlife attractions?
  • What are the ethics of wildlife attractions?
  • Is it possible to identify best practice in wildlife attractions?

Wildlife attractions are very diverse, although they can broadly be grouped into five distinct categories.

  1. Interactions with captive animals (zoos, elephant trekking);
  2. Sanctuaries (whose main purpose is to protect wild animals)
  3. Wildlife farms where tourists observe animals bred for another purpose (such as crocodile farms);
  4. Street performances (such as snake charming);
  5. Wild attractions such as gorilla trekking.

Our report excluded consumptive wildlife tourism, such as hunting and fishing as tourists undertaking these activities will be aware of their direct impacts on the wildlife. Whilst some claim the lucrative business of big game or trophy hunting can help conservation; Tourism Concern, as a principle, does not believe that the killing or harming of animals for either fun or sport can ever be ethical or justified.

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