By Hannah Tait
The voice of animal advocate groups and the cries of animals in captivity have finally been heard by the world’s leading travel site, TripAdvisor.
On the 11th of October, the most popular travel advice website made a massive policy shift. The company announced it would no longer be possible to book attractions where wild or endangered captive animals come into contact with people. This includes programs where people ride elephants, pet tigers, and swim with, ride, or touch captive dolphins.
Bookings with some companies have ceased immediately, with plans to have the ban completely in place by early 2017.
This is wonderful news for animals, including dolphins still in captivity around the world. It sends a strong message to the public that these kinds of activities are not harmless adventures – they’re just plain cruel.
The change also sets a great example for other travel websites to follow.
TripAdvisor hopes it will encourage people to think more critically about the implications of visiting these types of attractions, and educate users in ethical animal standards.
It’s a move that has been applauded by animal protection groups worldwide – but not everyone has welcomed the shift. Animal training facilities and groups such as the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) have hit out at TripAdvisor, describing the ban as detrimental to education about animal welfare and conservation.
However it is very difficult for marine parks to engender respect for animals when they are causing them to suffer. The science is clear – dolphins and whales simply cannot thrive in swimming pools. In confinement, they may suffer from depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
Further, breeding dolphins in captivity does not contribute to conservation efforts because it is very difficult for captive dolphins to be successfully released into the wild.
Deliberately breeding animals into a life of suffering is not conservation or education. It’s primarily for profit.
TripAdvisor has rightly recognised that this cycle of suffering is largely driven by consumer choices. Its new policy sends a critical message to millions of people: dolphin captivity is cruel. If only organisations like IMATA would listen.