Travel industry heavy weights are taking a stand for elephants

Some of the biggest global travel companies ban elephant rides for good

TORONTO, Oct. 4, 2015 /CNW/ – Right alongside protecting vulnerable children, communities and the environment, animal protection is now a top priority for global travel brands like G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, The Travel Corporation (including well-known brands like Contiki, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations) and World Expeditions.

With the world’s spotlight recently on the cruel killing of Cecil the lion people are becoming more aware of the exploitation of wildlife in tourism.   In the last month alone, twenty travel companies across the world have stopped selling elephant rides and shows, and signed the World Animal Protection Elephant-friendly Tourist Pledge.

Brett Tollman, CEO, The Travel Corporation and co-founder of the TreadRight Foundation says: “As The Travel Corporation and our family of brands continue on our sustainability journey, guided by the TreadRight Foundation, we recognize the importance of continually adopting new best practices and policies in the interest of helping to drive the positive transformation of the travel industry.

“We are proud to collaborate with World Animal Protection in the interests of ensuring the industry embraces animal-friendly tourism and strengthens wildlife protection.”

G Adventures, the world’s largest small-group adventure travel company has also signed the pledge. “We were happy to sign World Animal Protection’s elephant-friendly tourism pledge as it’s in line with our animal welfare policy. G Adventures has been committed to this issue for some time, we recognize the importance of animal protection and our role in keeping wildlife safe and in the wild. We want to make sure that all animals encountered on our tours are treated humanely and that our travellers not only see the world, they make it better,” says Jamie Sweeting, Vice President of Sustainability and Social Enterprise for G Adventures and President of the Planeterra Foundation.

“It’s our obligation to protect animals in tourism from abuse, and that is why we signed World Animal Protection’s elephant-friendly tourism pledge,” says Donna Lawrence, Responsible Travel Manager for World Expeditions. “The best animal encounter a traveller can have is one where the animal is seen in its wild habitat displaying natural behaviours. Our Animal Welfare Code of Conduct, developed in conjunction with World Animal Protection, sets out our animal welfare expectations for our stakeholders and travellers to follow.”

Despite major travel companies creating positive momentum for protecting vulnerable wildlife, one of the best known names in the travel industry refuses to stop promoting cruel elephant rides. The Thomas Cook Group, who claim on their website that they “care[s] deeply about animal welfare” still sell tours to a number of venues that promote animal abuses in Thailand, India and Zimbabwe. World Animal Protection has made multiple approaches to the global headquarters of the travel agent asking them to sign our Elephant-friendly Tourist Pledge.

Josey Kitson, Executive Director of World Animal Protection Canada says: “There is no humane way to ride an elephant. Huge suffering goes on behind the scenes. Taken from their mothers when young, elephants are isolated, starved and beaten until their spirits are broken. Sadly, about 3,000 elephants are suffering in captivity today in venues across Asia and Southern Africa.”

“We’d welcome the chance to work with Thomas Cook on solutions that not only put a stop to cruel elephant rides and shows, but also ensure that tourists can enjoy seeing elephants in the wild. Potential travellers can help by encouraging companies like Thomas Cook to come on board by taking action at StandUpForWildlife.ca.”

Travel brands are seeing the value of animal protection as well. “It’s high time all travel suppliers put compassion ahead of profits and end some of these deplorable ‘experiences’ that exploit and harm animals. Being an animal-friendly company is good for business, because we automatically tap into those clients that share our compassion and commitment,” Robert Eschenasi, Managing Partner at Comfortable Hiking Holidays.

Date: 7/10/2015