The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill has passed its next stage
By Jess Terry
The House of Lords has given strong support to a Bill to prohibit the sale and advertisement of cruel animal experiences abroad following a second reading.
On 14th July, the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords. The Bill, being taken through the House of Lords by Lord Black of Brentwood, would make it illegal for travel companies in England and Northern Ireland to sell and advertise cruel animal activities that take place abroad.
Activities marketed to UK tourists include elephant rides and washing, shows at captive dolphin venues and swim-with-dolphin experiences. Other activities include tourist contact and feeding with big cats, great apes, and sloths. These activities may involve cruel training techniques, coercive control, conditioned unnatural behaviours, stressful interactions and the keeping of highly intelligent animals in harmful captive environments.
These activities may seem like harmless ‘holiday fun’, but for the estimated 550,000 wild animals suffering for tourist entertainment, these activities condemn them to a lifetime of cruelty. If successful, this Bill would stop companies from profiting from animal exploitation.
There are over 3,000 dolphins in captivity worldwide, subjected to adverse living conditions and made to perform unnatural tricks in exchange for food. In the wild, dolphins can swim 100 km a day; the average tank size of the largest primary tank used at dolphin facilities is over 200,000 times smaller than their natural home range. Tanks are often barren to allow visitors to have a better view, which results in little mental stimulation for the animals and nowhere for them to hide. No captive facility can adequately provide for a dolphin's complex needs.
It is encouraging that several large travel companies, including British Airways, booking.com, Thomas Cook, and Expedia Group have stopped selling captive dolphin entertainment. However, global travel giants operating in the UK including GetYourGuide, Trip.com and TUI shamelessly continue to sell low-welfare wildlife entertainment attractions for profit.
In July, World Animal Protection and The Mirror went undercover to expose the shocking abuse these beautiful animals face every day. You can read more here.
Thousands of captive Asian elephants suffer daily and are forced to perform unnatural acts, such as elephant rides or shows, for tourists at ‘entertainment venues’ abroad. It is estimated that there are over 2,700 captive elephants in venues in Thailand alone.
The cruel methods used to train elephants include separation from their mothers at a young age (around 2 years old), restraint with minimal movement, and isolation.
Elephants are often subjected to repeated beatings with hooks or sticks when being trained, exposed to loud noises and stressful situations. In addition to this, the enclosures elephants are kept in are inadequate for their needs – the home range of Asian elephants varies between 30km2 and 600km2, an area that can never be replicated in captivity.
The most popular elephant interactions sold and promoted to UK travellers are elephant washing and bathing. If successful, this Bill would stop companies from profiting from elephant exploitation.
Low welfare wildlife attractions and animal experiences abroad, such as swimming with dolphins and elephant rides and bathing, are promoted and sold widely by mainstream travel companies in the UK. By selling and promoting these venues, companies such as TUI Group, AttractionTickets.com, GetYourGuide, Jet2holidays, and Trip.com, are profiting from animal exploitation and fuelling the problem. Each time they sell a ticket, they make money and the cruelty continues.
This year marks 30 years since the last dolphinarium closed in the UK. Whilst the majority of the UK public do not find dolphinariums acceptable, we are allowing travel companies to support cruelty by selling and advertising dolphin experiences abroad to UK customers.
Whilst we are unable to stop other countries operating these experiences abroad, we can stop the sale and advertisement of them within the UK.
Lords supporting the Bill
We were pleased to see such strong support for the Bill and so many Lords from all parties speak in favour of a ban.
Lord Black of Brentwood said, "Those we are seeking to protect have no voice of their own, what we’re showing today in supporting this Bill as a House, is that we can be that voice and that we won’t let them down."
Whilst Baroness Hodgson of Abinger added "The scale of animal cruelty in wildlife tourism cannot be overestimated. Over half a million animals are currently known to be in tourist entertainment in low-welfare establishments."
Baroness Hayman of Ullock also supported the Bill by explaining "Research has shown that many of these wildlife tourist attractions have impacts of which the tourists who are taking advantage of them have absolutely no idea. The most common examples that we have heard of include elephant rides, swimming with dolphin experiences, and so on."
And Lord Benyon said "No matter how big or small, any change that we are able to make to influence global animal welfare for the better should be seen as a positive move. The government is committed to raising animal welfare standards worldwide and takes such matters very seriously."
We will continue to update you on the progress of this Bill.
Wild animals deserve the right to a wild life, free from suffering. They are not ours to exploit.
For more information on how to make wildlife friendly choices when travelling, read our full report here.
Whilst we are unable to stop other countries operating these experiences abroad, we can stop the sale and advertisement of them within the UK