Sunthipharb and Boon Roon's elephant Thong Inn

ABTA raises industry standards on Animal Welfare


In collaboration with World Animal Protection – ABTA - the UK's largest travel association, has updated its animal welfare guidelines.

Under their guideline, ABTA make it ‘unacceptable’ for tour operators and travel agents (who adopt the guidelines) to offer tourists direct contact with a number of different animals used in tourist venues.

This setting, of a new global industry bar, comes after World Animal Protection highlighted that the largest UK travel trade association’s previous guidelines were not strong enough. 

We then worked with the association, during a consultation period, to provide expert advice and strong evidence to enable ABTA to become a better industry leader for animal welfare and therefore its Agents. 

Through its new guidelines, ABTA is saying "NO" to animal cruelty and now setting a great precedent for other travel associations, standard setting bodies, travel companies and governments around the world. 

Un-acceptable direct contact – at a glimpse

Below are just some of the practices which, as a result of science and evidence, will now be classified as ‘unacceptable’ for tourists through tour operators and travel agents who adopt ABTA’s new animal welfare guidelines:  

  • Contact (including bathing, washing and riding) or feeding of elephants without a barrier
  • Contact or feeding of crocodiles or alligators 
  • Contact or feeding of great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, bonobos) 
  • Contact or feeding of bears 
  • Contact or feeding of sloths 
  • Contact or feeding of orca 
  • Contact, feeding of and “walking with” wild cats 
  • Elephant shows or performances for tourists  

Find detailed information and step-by-step guidance on how ABTA has set out basic requirements and unacceptable practices on their website.

World Animal Protection urges other travel associations, standard setting bodies and travel companies to step up now and use the ABTA guidelines as a basis for their animal welfare policies. This will ensure operators remain relevant and able to manage growing client awareness and expectations when it comes to ethical experiences with wildlife when travelling.  

Work being done now

In the next year, we will continue to provide ABTA with our expertise (alongside other international NGOs) to ensure that their guidelines for captive dolphins will also be updated to reflect the latest science, ethics and public attitudes. This update will help ensure that this is the last generation of dolphins that has to live in captivity.

ABTA Members have led the way on animal welfare by implementing ABTA’s guidelines for a number of years, and others in the industry from around the world use ABTA’s guidelines as the basis for their animal welfare policies.

Naturally, with the emergence of new evidence, thinking evolves on what constitutes a basic requirement or an unacceptable practice.

Thanks to the valued input from many expert stakeholders, the revised guidelines will mean that travel companies can implement animal welfare approaches that reflect the latest evidence, working in partnership with suppliers to raise standards.

ABTA’s senior destinations and sustainability manager, Clare Jenkinson.

We urge other travel associations, standard setting bodies and travel companies to step up now and use the ABTA guidelines as a basis for their animal welfare policies.

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