TripAdvisor, one of the world’s largest travel sites, will stop selling tickets to attractions at which travelers interact with wild or endangered animals in captivity. The company announced the landmark move on Tuesday.
Tickets for excursions like elephant rides, petting tigers and swimming with dolphins ― activities for which animals are often abused, starved, restrained or stressed behind the scenes ― will disappear from the site by 2017.
Animals in captivity often suffer horrendous treatment as they prepare to face human tourists, according to advocates, observers, and attraction workers. Elephants are reportedly worked to the point of death in countries like Burma and Vietnam, where photo-hungry travelers will pay big money for a ride and a photo.
TripAdvisor’s move is a bold cry for better animal care in destinations around the world, according to CEO Stephen Kaufer.
“We believe the end result of our efforts will be enabling travelers to make more thoughtful choices about whether to visit an animal attraction,” he said in a statement.
TripAdvisor was spurred into action earlier this year when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals petitioned them to stop selling tickets for elephant rides, spokesperson Brian Hoyt told HuffPost. After six months of research ― and important help from groups like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Association of British Travel Agents ― the site decided to exclude a broader range of animal-related activities.
TripAdvisor won’t stop ticket sales for all animal meet-and-greets around the world, but its new policy will eliminate the least humane. Domestic animal activities such as horseback riding and children’s petting zoos are exempt from the ban, along with supervised feeding and conservation programs through which visitors might interact with animals.
The company has also promised to post an “education portal” alongside every animal attraction on its site, with comments from wildlife experts that will hopefully help travelers make better decisions about which attractions they choose to visit, and what they choose to write in their reviews.
Now it’s up to you to travel responsibly. When booking travel activities with animals, do your homework and book with a conservation-minded organization ― like the World Wildlife Fund, VegVoyages or National Geographic ― that seeks to help animals and their environment.