TripAdvisor says ‘no’ to animal exploitation

By on October 12, 2016 with 7 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

We vote for or against cruelty with our dollars, and that includes travel spending. So it was with great excitement that we learned that TripAdvisor, an online travel company that guides millions of tourist decisions, has launched a “no touching of wild animals” policy, whereby it will no longer sell tickets to attractions where travelers come into physical contact with captive wild or endangered animals. This includes swim-with-dolphin operators, elephant rides, zoos that feature public handling and photo ops with big cats and bears, and other practices.

If people stop going to places and attractions that do terrible things to animals, those places will wither, starved of the cash that motivates their entire operation. Kudos to TripAdvisor for this forward-looking policy and for providing an additional example of the humane economy in practice.

We’ve long urged all humane advocates to avoid patronizing events that cause cruelty, and it’s having an effect. For some years, attendance at the Celebration, the major event of the Tennessee walking horse show world, has been declining because of growing public disgust with the practice of soring – where trainers injure the horses’ feet and legs by chemical or mechanical means in order to produce an exaggerated, pain-based gait known as the “Big Lick.”

But while we are urging people to stay away from “Big Lick” events in order to dry up their funding sources, we are also working on public policy goals to forbid this abuse.

To that end, I’m so pleased that so many lawmakers are stepping up. Last week, a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. senators led by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to swiftly implement a rule that the agency proposed in July to upgrade its regulations under the Horse Protection Act (which the USDA enforces). A similar letter that 140 representatives have already agreed to co-sign is now being circulated in the House.

The rule would be the biggest step to help end the cruel practice of horse soring since the passage of the Act itself. It contains key elements of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1121/H.R.3268), which was introduced in the Senate by Ayotte and Warner and in the House by Reps. Ted Yoho and Kurt Schrader, both veterinarians.

The bills have enormous bipartisan support in both chambers, and the backing of just about every sector of the horse industry as well as the veterinary community. But a few well-placed legislators have thwarted the will of the majority of lawmakers and prevented a vote on the issue. Since the PAST Act was introduced largely because the USDA failed to strengthen its regulations to better enforce the law against horse soring, we’re pleased the agency is now moving forward on this vital effort.

Over the past decade, The HSUS has been diligently working to expose the rampant cruelty inflicted on Tennessee walking horses and related breeds. In 2015 we launched a second major undercover investigation into the top-winning training stable ThorSport Farms, proving once again that this terrible practice continues at the highest levels of competition.

Just this past week, further evidence of the suffering that the victims of soring endure was captured by a spectator on video when a horse collapsed during a class at the North Carolina Championship Horse Show held at the Western NC Agricultural Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Dr. Michael Blackwell, HSUS chief veterinary officer, and the former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, viewed the video and said, “This horse is obviously uneasy and appears to be in pain. It is unconscionable that someone would intentionally inflict pain in order to force an unnatural gait. The USDA’s proposed rule will go a long way toward preventing the cruelty.”

We have for several years urged the USDA to issue new, tougher regulations to close loopholes in HPA enforcement. In 2015, with the pro bono legal support of Latham & Watkins LLP, we filed a petition seeking to eliminate the failed system of industry self-policing in the big lick faction of this industry, and the use of devices used to sore horses.

The pending rule grants several of our requests and we are urging the USDA to implement it swiftly after the close of the public comment period on October 26th. We need your help to get this done during this presidential administration. Please submit your comment in support of this vital regulation.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    I’m glad TripAdvisor has seen the wisdom in promoting ethical and informed travel rather than clueless pleasure-seeking tourism with no thought of the consequences to local wildlife or other animals. It’s a good start.
    I hope they include such non-contact but still cruel tourist attractions such as bullfights, substandard roadside zoos, and circuses with animals.
    As for the horse soring, the sooner that’s relegated to History’s dumpster of really stupid ideas the better.

  2. Nola Lee Kelsey says:

    Fantastic news and a leadership worthy choice by TripAdvisor! Thank you for helping travelers make responsible choices and opening travel consumer’s eyes to how their spending can harm or help the word.

    – Nola Lee Kelsey
    Volunteer Travel Guidebook Author

  3. Jackie Bell - Pewett says:

    “A richous man regards the life of his animal.”
    Proverbs 12:10

  4. Raisa Stone says:

    This is AWESOME news! And I am so proud to be one of the frequent contributors to Trip Advisor who reviews such attractions, cautioning travelers against abusive wildlife exhibits and providing links to local news articles about SPCA assessments, etc.

  5. Karen Hoyle says:

    I agree that Soring must end! This has been prevalent for too long. Unfortunately, those who imposed the “regulations” clearly cannot enforce them. Instead of including other breeds in this proposed, please accept accountability for not measuring results. The proposed verbiage of the HPA has brought the Natural Trotting Breeds into a bucket with TWH’s, and this is wrong on every level. One must not include all breeds into this shameless act of cruelty. I sincerely oppose soring, or any type of animal cruelty! I have been a responsible pet owner my entire life. I am a proud and responsible owner of an American Saddlebred performance horse! He is of the natural trotting breed. The proposed ruling by including the ASB’s, Morgans, Hackneys and Arabians with the TWH’s would be a significant mistake! We shoe our horses for comfort, no different that people who require good shoes. I support Anti Animal Abuse! I pray that TWH’s finally receive the good treatment that they are so deserving of. Please oppose the HPA proposed verbiage that includes the Natural Trotting Breeds-American Saddlebreds, Morgans, Hackney and Arabians. This must be re-written to exclude them. Thank you!

  6. Dean Hubenig says:

    Trip Advisor is still selling tickets to Theater Of The Sea in Islamorada FL. Dolphin, sea lion and stingray interactions.

    • Maureen LaMarra says:

      This is a false statement. Trip Advisor does NOT SELL tickets to Theater of the Sea, they publish the outstanding comments of people from all over the world who have actually, gone to Theater of the Sea. False news is false news.

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