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Tripadvisor won’t offer exotic animal experiences, but all others are fine

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When it comes to vacation excursions, one site has arbitrarily drawn a line between what’s good animal tourism and what’s evil.

Travel Trends reports that TripAdvisor will no longer take bookings for “hundreds of animal attractions where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species including but not limited to elephant rides, petting tigers, and swim with dolphin attractions.” Many will be dropped immediately, with the bulk being removed by early 2017. This allegedly follows pressure from animal rights lobby groups, who shouldn’t celebrate before checking out the exemptions.

African Lion Safari-esque attractions might be off the list, but horseback riding, children’s petting zoos with domestic animals like rabbits, aquarium touch pools, zoo feeding programs, and “voluntourism” at zoos and aquariums are still very much supported. Speciesist much? In fact, they’re excited to release an education portal on animal tourism just in time for this publicity stunt.

CEO Steve Kaufer commented: “We want to celebrate those destinations and attractions that are leaders in caring for animals and those in the tourism industry who help further the cause of animal welfare, conservation and the preservation of endangered species.” Many will understand the incredible hypocrisy of claiming anyone who exploits animals is interested in their welfare above what they can profit, or that these attractions are based in education. 

Of course, this “win” is being endorsed by a whole slew of “animal lovers,” from PETA, to World Animal Protection, and The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (they probably have nothing to gain from this). “This is a significant step towards ending wildlife tourism cruelties, and we hope it will have a huge influence on the tourism industry as a whole,” Steve McIvor, CEO of World Animal Protection, told Travel Trends. “We believe once people know about these wildlife abuses, they will make other travel choices because of their love for animals.” 

Caring about animals means more than not participating in exotic animal experiences on the occasional trip. While many animal rights advocates are going to celebrate TripAdvisor for making some animal attractions less available, few will highlight that travellers can still use the site to book animal experiences, steak dinners, and others experiences that involve the use of animals. We shouldn’t be focused on making travellers more animal-friendly, we should be working on spreading vegan education. Vegans won’t book an elephant ride, and they also won’t give patronage to the countless non-exotic exploitative experiences that involve animals daily and on vacation. The rabbit is as deserving of our protection as the elephant, and that’s something we should be cognizant of whether we’re at home or living out of a suitcase. 

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