Taking part in elephant rides while on holiday is an ‘unacceptable practice’, Abta warns travel firms
- Travel body says tourists should not have any contact with elephants abroad
- It has also deemed bathing the animals and elephant shows as ‘unacceptable’
- There are multiple opportunities for tourists to ride elephants across Asia
Enjoying elephant rides while on holiday is an ‘unacceptable practice’, a trade travel body has warned.
The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) says it is updating its guidelines for travel companies, telling them that tourists should not have contact with elephants ‘without a barrier’ between them.
The new guidelines will be released later this year and Abta says it hopes that it will send ‘a clear message to suppliers and holidaymakers that the UK travel industry does not support’ elephant riding.
The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) says it is updating its guidelines for travel companies, telling them that tourists should not have contact with elephants ‘without a barrier’ between them
But it’s not just elephant rides that will be deemed unacceptable by Abta, which represents tour operators and travel agents.
The trade travel body will also label bathing the animals as well elephant shows, where the creatures are forced to play football or perform tricks, unacceptable too.
Writing in the Abta magazine, Clare Jenkinson, senior destinations and sustainability manager, said: ‘Abta is currently in the process of updating our animal welfare guidelines. One of the changes will be making any tourist contact with elephants without a barrier – including riding and bathing – an unacceptable practice.
‘Similarly, elephant shows and activities such as elephants playing football or painting pictures will also be unacceptable, as defined by evidence provided by experts.
‘The strong weight of evidence suggests that often harmful training methods are used to be able to control the elephants, in order for them to then engage in various activities.
‘Abta believes strongly that elephants should not be subject to punishment and cruelty. The existing guidelines currently list elephant riding as a discouraged practice – with many Abta members choosing to stop selling such activities.
‘By classifying these activities as an unacceptable practice, it sends a clear message to suppliers and holidaymakers that the UK travel industry does not support them.’
Harriet Barclay from the Humane Society welcomed the news that Abta is to update its guidelines.
She said: ‘We are delighted that the British Travel Association has listened to the evidence we and other groups submitted and is updating its animal welfare guidelines to recognise that elephant riding, shows and other activities are unacceptable.
‘Elephants are intelligent wild animals with close family bonds, who suffer greatly in captivity. Sadly, many well-meaning tourists are unaware that the elephant they pay to meet will likely have started life as a baby ripped from its mother in the wild, and brutally “broken” with beatings and bullhooks.
Abta will label bathing the animals as well elephant shows, where the creatures are forced to play football or perform tricks, unacceptable too
‘We hope that Abta’s strong stance against captive elephant interactions will educate operators to drop these so-called attractions and stop the cycle of suffering.
‘We’re also watching closely to see how Abta will adjust its guidelines for facilities keeping dolphins in captivity, if animal welfare science and ethics prevail then they too will have Abta’s endorsement removed. The only way to see these animals without causing suffering is on their terms, in the wild.’
The opportunities for tourists to ride elephants in hot spots across Asia such as India and Thailand are plentiful.
Last year, campaign group Save The Asian Elephant (STAE) urged the UK government to ban adverts that promote elephant rides on foreign holidays.