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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

7th Annual CABI LSBU RVC Symposium

Tourism and Animal Welfare

A 21st century dilemma for veterinarians, animal welfare organisations, tourists and the tourism industry


Polar Bear foot seen in contrast to a human hand at Copenhagen Zoo.Young cub at  famous Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, ThailandDonkeys as transportation in the mountains near the Psychro Cave in Crete, Greece


13th June 2018
London South Bank University


Sponsored by the RVC Animal Care Trust (Registered charity number: 281571)

RVC ACT logo

Speakers include:
Don Broom
, University of Cambridge
Neil Carr, University of Otago
Glen Cousquer, University of Edinburgh
Clare Jenkinson, Association of British Travel Agents
Tom Moorhouse, University of Oxford
Stuart Patterson, Royal Veterinary College
Jan Schmidt-Burbach, World Animal Protection
Daniel Turner
, Animondial

Chaired by Maria Diez-Leon, Royal Veterinary College

13th June 2018, 12:45-19:00

Registration from 12:45
Programme begins at 13:15
Drinks reception from 17:30

Tickets are available on the door for £25.

Email with any questions.




Attendees will also be entitled to a £10 discount on Tourism and Animal Welfare.

Earlybird tickets are available at £20 until the 18th May. Standard tickets will be available after this time, at £25. Discounts apply for students and BSAVA members. For more information on tickets, and to secure your place, please visit our event website, or email for more information.

There is a strong link between tourism and animals, whether in zoos, marine parks, or on safari. Tourists encounter animals in many different situations: photo opportunities, street performances, animal rides and specialised ‘sanctuaries’ such as elephant homes and tiger temples. Tourism may benefit wildlife, by funding wildlife animal conservation, as well as providing vital income for local communities, but the exploitation of animals in animal entertainment can be a cruel and degrading experience for intelligent sentient creatures.

Veterinarians, committed to working for the health and welfare of animals, need to know about the issues surrounding tourism and welfare, and the science and the evidence concerning these welfare issues. It is also essential to understand the culture and relationships between animals and their keepers in the destinations. Meanwhile, in the tourist industry, animal welfare issues can have a strong influence on a person’s choice of holiday, a fact that is appreciated by animal welfare NGOs.

This symposium brings together experts from both the tourism and veterinary worlds to examine the science, economics and welfare issues involved in the use of animals in tourism, and to discuss how animal welfare in tourist settings can be improved. It comprises presentations from recognised experts and a panel discussion chaired by Maria Diez-Leon from the Royal Veterinary College. It will be followed by a networking reception, where you can meet the speakers and discuss the issues.

Sentience, welfare, ethics and human entertainment

Donald M. Broom, University of Cambridge

Our history presents numerous examples of humans being used for entertainment, from Roman gladiators fighting to the ‘freak shows’ of individuals with physical disabilities. Whilst such pastimes are now considered socially unacceptable, non-human animals continue to be used for entertainment in similar contexts. This double standard raises a number of ethical questions. For those who read that we are given dominion over the world, who are “we” and what should dominion mean? Is it right to focus greatly on humans when terms like health and welfare mean exactly the same for humans and other animals? Which humans and which other animals are sentient and how should non- sentient individuals be treated?


Presencing Animal Welfare in Tourism

Tackling Absencing as a Cause of Unhealthy Relationships and Poor Mule Welfare in the International Mountain Tourism Industry

Glen Cousquer, University of Edinburgh

The international mountain tourism industry is literally carried on the back of the pack mule.  The extent to which these beasts of burden are exploited, neglected and abused has, however, largely gone unnoticed. This has, in part, been because there have not been processes in place to counter the ways in which the industry absences itself from the mule and, in doing so, perpetuates exploitative relationships based on the abuse of power and a failure to turn to, meet and dialogue with the mule. This presentation introduces the twin concepts of absencing and presencing to explore how we can become more aware of the attitudes and intentions that inform these relationships and the welfare this gives rise to.

In adopting this focus, it becomes possible to see and appreciate the between and identify whether individuals turn to the other and engage in a spirit of I-Thou or whether they turn away, objectifying and exploiting the other as they engage in a spirit of I-It. The challenge for those responsible for the health and wellbeing of pack mules working in mountain tourism lies in recognising this turning and using this awareness to address exploitative practices.  These insights have the potential to transform how we understand the question of how we should attend to the other, whether human or nonhuman, working in tourism. It raises important questions about how a growing awareness of our attitudinal stance can allow new norms to be defined that promote mutuality, reciprocity and dialogue as the basis of healthy relationships and welfare.


How the travel industry is managing animal welfare

Clare Jenkinson, Association of British Travel Agents

Clare will explore why animal welfare is an important issue in the tourism industry, the development of industry guidelines on animal welfare and how these guidelines are being implemented around the world.


Considering the impact of Wildlife Tourist Attractions

Tom Moorhouse, WildCRU

Wildlife Tourist Attractions (WTAs) were audited for their impacts on the conservation status and welfare of their subject animals. We scored these impacts for 24 types of WTA, visited by 3.6-6 million tourists a year, and compared our scores to tourists’ feedback on TripAdvisor. Six WTA types (impacting 1,500-13,000 individual animals) had net positive conservation/welfare impacts, but 14 (120,000-340,000 individuals) had negative conservation impacts and 18 (230,000-550,000 individuals) had negative welfare impacts. Despite these figures only 7.8% of all tourist feedback on these WTAs was negative due to conservation/welfare concerns. We demonstrated that WTAs have substantial negative effects that are unrecognised by the majority of tourists, suggesting an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of WTAs worldwide. As a follow up, we studied the potential for information campaigns to affect tourists' decision making, using a survey of Chinese and English speaking subjects. The respondents were able to discern beneficial from detrimental WTAs, and preferred beneficial WTAs, when primed to consider the likely impacts of WTAs on wildlife conservation and animal welfare, but that the effect of priming was smaller for Chinese respondents.


A Veterinary Perspective on Animal Welfare and Tourism

Stuart Patterson, Royal Veterinary College

The public perception of what vets do is often as confused as the opinion of vets themselves! One particular conflict involves where vets fit into conservation efforts. How does their specialist knowledge contribute? Is it relevant? A further issue is that of divided loyalties. Vets are sometimes portrayed as the custodians of animal welfare, but it is easy to forget that these very same guardians are often only in place because they are employed by those that are using the animals, be they zoo owners, wildlife guides, or even farmers. During this talk I will discuss the various ways in which vets may be involved with animals that are seen as tourist attractions. Such a discussion is a common one to be had with students hoping for a career in these environments, and impassioned to make a difference. By understanding what these vets may be hoping to achieve, and the sometimes differing briefs under which they are working, I hope to provoke some thoughts on the best way to work with my profession to promote good welfare.


Elephants and Tourism – A pathway to an elephant-friendly future

Jan Schmidt-Burbach, World Animal Protection

World Animal Protection is raising public awareness globally and working together with the travel industry, governments and tourism venues to shift the use of wild animals in tourism away from exploitative practices towards more animal-friendly alternatives. One priority area of this campaign has been the worrying situation of elephants in tourism. This talk will outline the concerns by World Animal Protection, as identified through long-term, large scale research of elephant venues and tourism, which has documented ongoing suffering of over 3,000 elephants in tourism venues. This talk will also showcase a pathway that can lead to sustainable change, reducing suffering of animals, enabling ethical practices for tourists and travel companies, and support needs of local communities involved with elephants. Close to 200 travel companies have committed to stop supporting practices such as elephant shows and elephant rides in favour of replacing them with elephant-friendly alternatives. Some of these companies and World Animal Protection are working directly with elephant venues to change their practices. While ongoing and increased efforts are certainly needed, we are witnessing some positive developments that will help to eventually phase out conventional elephant entertainment and end the suffering of these endangered animals.


Building Strategic Partnerships

Daniel Turner, ANIMONDIAL

The travel industry has a role and responsibility to better protect the welfare of animals involved in tourism. Since 2004, I have been committed to ensuring travel industry professionals have the information and the tools required to safeguard animal welfare. In my former capacity as project lead on tourism policy at the Born Free Foundation, I adopted a pragmatic approach to travel industry engagement, delivering improved practice and longer-term solutions to the recurring problems. This focused on building capacity and developing standards, including the Travelife Animal Attraction Handbook (2008) and ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism (2013), as well as other documentation to help identify, measure and manage associated risk in animal tourism. These efforts, and those by others, have led to significant strides being made by the British and Dutch travel industries to acknowledge tourism’s impact on animals, establish guidelines and encourage best practice.

There is still so much to do of course, particularly to improve the implementation of standards, but this must be a collaborative effort by all stakeholders. It is vital to understand the roles, responsibilities and constraints of outbound and inbound tour operators, travel agents and trade associations, attraction providers, academia and NGOs, in order to define effective actions and achieving success. ANIMONDIAL, a new ‘animals in tourism’ consultancy, aims to do just that through building strategic partnerships that uphold scientific knowledge, encourage higher standards in practice and improve animal welfare across global tourism destinations. ANIMONDIAL looks forward to working with you to deliver these objectives.

WAP Logo World Animal Protection is a global not-for-profit animal welfare organisation. We work with businesses, governments and local partners, helping people find practical ways to prevent animal suffering worldwide. We influence decision makers to put animals on the global agenda and help the world to see how important they are to all of us.
IFAW logo Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global NGO with offices in 15 countries and projects in over 40. In collaboration with both governments and local communities, we pioneer lasting solutions to some of the most pressing animal welfare and wildlife conservation issues of our time.