A UK travel company has pledged to stop promoting zoos and laid down guidelines for the kinds of animal facilities it will continue to work with.
Responsible Travel said there was “no justifiable reason” to keep animals in captivity, in an announcement backed by the Born Free Foundation and actor and animal welfare campaigner Joanna Lumley.
It gave four key reasons for its decision:
So far, Responsible Travel has removed six trips from its site that include visits to zoos. It is also conducting an “in-depth audit” of all captive animal facilities visited on the trips it sells, which it says incorporates a significant proportion of the itineraries it offers around the world, to ensure they comply with its new guidelines.
The site will still promote legitimate animal sanctuaries and rescue centres for animals that cannot be returned to the wild, as well as rehabilitation centres for animals that will be returned to the wild, as long as no captive breeding takes place in these facilities.
It will also promote “genuine endangered species conservation centres”.
Responsible Travel, which works with 375 tour operators around the world, is the first travel company to make a strong statement regarding zoos, a move that comes as a growing number of tour operators are coming under pressure to take a stand against animal attractions.
In February, Virgin Holidays said it would no longer sell or promote any new attractions or hotels that featured captive whales and dolphins for entertainment purposes (though it continues to sell to around 30 attractions that currently do so), and last October TripAdvisor announced it would discontinue selling tickets for specific tourism experiences where travellers came into physical contact with captive wild animals, such as elephant rides, petting tigers and swimming with dolphins.
In a blog on the issue, Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis said: “Our conclusion is that zoos are not appropriate in 2017. They are relics of the past, and the arguments to justify keeping animals in captivity no longer stand up.”
He added: “In our view, rather than being self-proclaimed conservation organisations they are in fact businesses that exploit animals for profit. We hope that other travel businesses and tour operators will join us in creating a movement for change that recognises that zoos are outdated, unethical and unnecessary.”