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Why we need the government to step in and obligate UK tour companies to adhere to UK animal welfare

Currently, there is absolutely no legislation which governs the practices of UK tour companies when operating abroad with regards to animal welfare. This means the tour companies are able to sell tickets to animal attractions which would be completely illegal in the UK as a vast majority of them fail to meet even basic U.K. welfare standards.

The lack of legislation abroad means tour companies have been able to promote and profit from highly controversial animal practices, many of which have been consistently documented to cause extreme animal suffering and are often environmentally unsustainable.

Notable examples of such exploitation include but are not limited to: selling tickets to see or swim with whales and dolphins in places that have obtained the cetaceans as a result of brutal wild captures, selling opportunities to ride on overworked elephants or camels, selling tickets to meet tigers which are often sedated.

Many tourists who visit such attractions may not realise the cruelty involved, and may, understandably, be under the impression that because they are endorsed and sold by British companies they are sustainable with high animal welfare standards. Sadly, this is often not the case.

Tour operators have designed their own set of animal welfare standards and currently govern their own practices. The standards they have created do not meet UK national standards. Clearly tour operators may have a vested interest in loosening standards to enable them to profit from a wider variety of attractions and operate in countries with poor or non-existent animal welfare legislation. Tour operators have often been written to by members of the UK public who are concerned about the poor standards and in many cases, the tour companies have not provided a response; a lack of transparency and accountability has been noted.

The UK has had animal welfare legislation governing the practices of zoos and dolphinariums since at least 1981, however, some countries which UK tour companies sell to, such as China, have absolutely no animal welfare standards at all. This means animals are able to be exploited without limit and tour companies can turn a blind eye to animal cruelty. This demonstrates a loophole in UK animal welfare legislation. Uk tour companies wishing to profit from the use of animals overseas should be legally obliged to ensure all attractions meet U.K welfare standards as a minimum.

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