Airbnb, TripAdvisor announcements herald progress for wild animals trapped in tourism industry

By on October 3, 2019 with 5 Comments

Today, the New York Times reported on Airbnb’s new featured offering of “animal experiences,” which will have an ethical focus and will ban any direct contact with wild animals. The announcement comes on the heels of a decision by TripAdvisor, reported just yesterday, to stop ticket sales to all attractions that feature whales and dolphins.

With its new animal experiences, Airbnb appears eager to strike a balance between what it perceives as its customers wanting to “reconnect with animals” and “fulfilling that urge in a responsible way.” The organization will not feature or support operations that involve any direct contact with wild animals, including petting, feeding or riding them, with some exceptions for nonprofits conducting conservation research. Animals such as horses and camels, should they be involved, may carry no more than one rider and no more than 20 percent of their body weight. According to the Times, the rules also prohibit elephant interactions, including riding, bathing or feeding, as well as any experiences involving captive marine mammals.

These are promising developments and they show a growing recognition within the tourism industry – which all too often has tended to exploit animals, and particularly wild animals – of the suffering these creatures endure when forced to interact with humans. Travelers themselves are also increasingly realizing this. A survey released earlier this year found ethical travel is on the rise, and when reflecting on previous trips, a wide range of wildlife-related activities, like posing for photographs with captive wildlife, riding on elephants and swimming with dolphins, caused travelers to experience “travel guilt.”

While the announcements from TripAdvisor and Airbnb came within a day of each other, the industry has shown a slow but steady movement in the right direction of late. TripAdvisor’s announcement yesterday built upon its 2016 animal welfare policy, which ended sales of tickets to experiences where travelers have physical contact with captive wild animals, such as elephant riding and tiger petting. And in 2017, Expedia announced that it would no longer offer certain animal activities. The online travel agency partnered with us and other groups to provide education to visitors about the issues wild animals face, such as how to spot a phony animal sanctuary – the kind of facility that calls itself a “sanctuary” or “refuge,” but is more interested in profits than saving animals, and may actually be mistreating animals.

But we are also aware that this fight is far from over. The abuse of wildlife for entertainment is a major problem the world over. Animals like elephants, whales and dolphins continue to be taken from the wild and coerced into cruel captivity in order to entertain tourists, and the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have been involved for a long time in efforts at the global level to stop such exploitation.

For instance, HSI/India has been working to end the use of elephants for joyrides at the Amer Fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Last year, at our urging, local authorities in India began an investigation into the abuse of the elephants who lead a dreary life in inadequate facilities with an insufficient diet and lack of medical care. The animals are often abused with bull hooks, and are beaten and kicked.

In South Africa, we are fighting to end the lion “snuggle scam” industry and today, on World Animal Day, Humane Society International/Africa and FOUR PAWS South Africa urged tourists, travel guides and tour operators to refuse to participate in this industry, which has an estimated 8,000 to 11,000 lions in captivity. The industry promotes human-lion interactions, such as cub bottle-feeding or petting and walking with lions. When the animals are too old for such interactions, they are offered to be shot as canned-hunting trophies or slaughtered to meet the demand of the international lion-bone trade. We are asking tourists to instead support ethical sanctuaries and wildlife game drives as natural and cruelty-free options to see lions roaming freely in their natural habitat.

Stateside, we are urging your support to end the problem of roadside zoos — which also offer up infant animals, like tiger cubs, for selfies and feeding, while starving and abusing the animals — by supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Versions of the bill have been introduced in both chambers of Congress.

We know now that the instant gratification of an Instagram selfie with a captive tiger cub or dolphin is not worth the pain and abuse that the animal has to endure for a lifetime. Most people love animals, and, if given the information and the opportunity, would love to interact with them in ways that do not harm the animals, creating a better experience for everyone involved. We are gratified to see that businesses like Airbnb and TripAdvisor are increasingly recognizing this fact, and taking smart steps to prevent the suffering and neglect of animals while boosting their own standing in the eyes of consumers.

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ken McGlade says:

    Deer need enough food not an abundance of food to give birth to twins. They’re typically bred first season at close to 6 months old. After that it’s common for them to have twins. In Illinois over 100,000 deer were being killed annually for years and years in there is still an abundance I live in town, it’s just about dark and I’m looking out the window at 7 of them in a small field behind my church. Before this gets out of hand lets just get to the point. Hunting is necessary as we need to manage the herd and ultimately it’s necessary for the survival of the species. If you want to target unethical hunters, I’m all in and I’ll back you 100%. If you want to target petting zoos and puppy mills, I’m behind you. The article I read about not depleting the deer population because it doesn’t help is just about the most ridiculous article I’ve ever read. So I assume you would like them to multiply allowing for the spread of disease to spread exponentially, and or for them to starve to death. I’m looking at deer in town because they have to adapt to live closely to humans. I’m being objective,. I used to hunt, I made sure I practiced daily, one a slug left my shotgun there was no reason it shouldn’t put that deer down immediately and as painlessly as possible. I’ve seen a buck gore a fawn trying to get through to some does during the rut, I’ve got video, to illustrate how cruel nature can be. It shows coyotes eating a screaming fawn. I’m behind you on other matters but all you’ve got is opinion on this subject and it’s the wrong opinion, I still go out and shoot deer, with my camera. Science backs up what I just stated. Go protest poachers and unethical hunters. Last but not least, for those who do eat meat and think its somehow more holy to eat a cow or pig that’s been bludgeoned to death, processed and packaged and serve to you on a plate or at the grocery store don’t even bother protesting. Hunters often sit for hundreds of hours waiting for that right shot. It’s not just about that, it’s being in the outdoors, listening to the geese fly over, listening to the pheasants, watching the squirrels. There’s nothing I hate more than poachers and unethical hunters but we can’t protect everyone from everyone and everything. It’s just that simple. Go out and save the animals from desert zoos, puppy mills, alligator farms but don’t hang yourself with ridiculous made up facts it ruins your credibility when you could be coming together for the common good. Sincerely and very honestly. Ken McGlade

  2. Dobi Dobroslawa says:

    Fantastic news! Thank you! Please continue in your great work on these issues!

  3. anantha says:

    I live in India and happy to hear about the local news. It’s time, with all the evolution we claim to have acquired in all the centuries gone by, we should make efforts to live and let live and not make excuses like “deers in my backyard when actually we are in theirs”. Nature takes care of itself and we could try and limit our intervetion to the minimal extent possible.

    Kudos to you for all your work !

  4. Carol Kuzmicz says:

    I have just finished reading an eye opening book, Dolphin Diaries, by Dr Denise Herzing. She relates to the reader of truly ” being dolphin”.

  5. Nishant Bhajaria says:

    This is progress, and thank you, but so much still to do!

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.