Sustainable Travel to Increase Animal Welfare
What does this mean? And why should it matter as a traveller?
Being a traveller, exploring our globe is a wonderful feeling, experiencing new sights, meeting new people, eating new cuisines, engaging in new activities, the benefits and reasons for exploring our globe are endless!
The reason to travel is different for every individual, yet we each have a collective responsibility to travel in a sustainable manner, which provides positive outcomes for everyone and everything during our travels.
First, let’s understand what sustainable travel is.
What is Sustainable Travel?
“Sustainable travel” is a term which has been used and around for decades, yet has gained momentum over recent years due to increase focus on the need to protect our planet, plus the massive increase of people now travelling across our globe is impacting our planet, and the frequency for which we travel.
Sustainable travel derives from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sustainable tourism term of “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. With tourism referring to “the activity of visitors, and a visitor is a particular type of traveller and consequently tourism is a subset of travel” (UNWTO).
Ultimately as a traveller, it means to provide current and future positive impact to the natural environment, support local communities and cultures, whilst ensuring economic benefits are sustained within local communities. Sustainable travel encompasses three pillars when travelling:
- People – social connections, communities, cultures
- Planet – environment, animals, nature
- Profit – economy
From an individual’s point of view, it’s about making positive decisions when you travel, to ensure local people and the natural environment are both benefited, whilst providing positive funds stay within local communities.
When traveling, it’s about firstly being aware of all three pillars, and how they can interact and link with each other. Then it’s having the behaviours and taking actions, which provide positive impacts towards those pillars, for both the current state and also future state into account.
Who’s Responsible for Sustainable Travel?
Not one person, community, organisation, or country is in charge of ensuring sustainable travel. We each individually need to contribute to our longevity of Earth.
We as travellers need to positively contribute to our globe, by taking small actions every time we travel, whilst possibly changing our habits and mindset going forward.
Whilst there are various organisations with a mission and purpose to provide guidelines for destinations and properties to adhere to sustainable practices, these are independent and not mandated across the globe.
There are also certifying bodies and guiding principles which allow destinations, properties, and providers, to meet certain sustainable practices and standards. These principles are non-mandatory for destinations, properties and providers to adhere to, yet they are beneficial as they inform stakeholders, including travellers, that they provide and adhere to sustainable practices.
What is Animal Welfare?
Wildlife is “animals that live independently of people, in natural conditions” (Cambridge Dictionary).
Not everyone thinks of animals in their day to day life, let alone when travelling, unless they have a pet, but generally it doesn’t go past there. There are approximately 8.7 million species of animals on earth, apparently equating to 10 quadrillion animals on Earth (that’s 15 zeros), whereas the human population is 7.9 billion (that’s nine zeros). This means animals are a massive contributor to our planet.
Animals come in a range of diversified sizes, shapes, colors, mobility and functions, which make them all unique in their own way.
Like humans, animals whether it be a single ant on the ground, or an eagle in the sky, they all have a similar pursuits in life like us humans:
- To move in pursuit of food
- Have connections, for mating, and communities
- To find shelter for protection
We often take animals for granted or never think twice about animals especially in the wild, unless you have an avid wildlife interest. Although there are more animals on Earth than humans, we humans dominate animals and direct the future of their lives.
Why Care for Animal Welfare?
Animals form an integral part of our ecosystems, whereby if any factor in the ecosystem is altered it will affect the entire ecosystem, so if we endanger the life of an animal species, this will have a domino effect and likely impact humans as well down the line.
“Animals are integral to sustainable development and, by exploiting them, we jeopardize our own wellbeing. And the way our society treats animals says so much about our humanity, compassion, and happiness. It has never been more evident than ensuring the humane treatment of animals is critical to protecting our own wellbeing—and public policy should evolve accordingly” – Beth Allgood, US Director International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a million species are in danger of going extinct if we do not change our behaviours in how we interact with the natural environment and wildlife. How we live our lives greatly impacts our animals lives, and is no different when we travel.
Our impact to animal lives is possibly more important when we travel, as our actions can go unnoticeable as soon as we leave a destination or region, yet our action have long term effects on species.
An animal is a living being that eats, breathes, reproduces, has a home, has family and has feelings, just like humans. We need to care for our animals in all shapes and sizes on our planet, just like we care for people, our friends and family. Without animals in our lives, not only would our life be boring, yet it wouldn’t exist, as we all form part of our ecosystem, all relying on each other to live.
How Can We Be More Conscious Travellers?
Most people feel they alone cannot make an impact towards sustainable travel, which is not necessarily true. If everyone makes small behaviour changes and makes appropriate sustainable choices, it will collectively make a positive impact to protect and increase animal welfare.
The first step to help increase animal welfare is to know there are living creatures all around you. Once you are aware living creatures are all around, you should aim to ensure their living conditions and habitats are undisturbed where possible.
As you wouldn’t like your home or township to be destroyed, nor would you like to be taken from your home and placed in a cage or expected to be chained up all day. We all experienced lockdown in some form during the Covid pandemic, and being locked up wasn’t a nice feeling.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do your holiday plans positively or negatively impact animal welfare and animal habitats?
- Are you able, and more importantly willing, to adjust your plans slightly on how or where you travel to benefit animal welfare?
- How could you improve animal welfare when you’re exploring a destination?
There has been a change in tourism attractions over the last decade to avoid animal exploitation, however we can continue to play our part in reducing these.
Animal entertainment venues such as animal circuses are taboo, along with taking selfies with chained up tigers, riding elephants and the like. Although the tourism industry has made progress in eliminating animal exploitation for entertainment purposes, there is still room to improve. Whilst destinations and attraction operators may take time to completely demolish this industry, until it is the norm, avoid seeing, especially paying to see animals in such negative habitats and in captivity for no reason, so the operators have no choice but to cease the attraction.
Aim to avoid attractions which exploit animals or where animals are kept in captivity is best, unless it is for conservation or short term rehabilitation reasons. No animal should be kept from their natural home unless completely necessary for the benefit of the animals health and wellbeing.
Wild animals shouldn’t be fed by humans, as the more human contact they have, the more animals will expect that people are their food source, and they’ll stop sourcing and hunting for their own food. Animals need to be self sufficient, so avoid contact and feeding them at all times. Most destinations place signs around to not feed the animals, respect the request and understand why they have done so.
How we treat animals when we travel is crucial to the increase of animal welfare across the globe. As we travel, consider all animals regardless of their size and nature, and be aware of how you are treating them.
During your planning and research stage, consider taking the time to read the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) of organisations, accommodation and tour operators, to read their ethical position, which is normally found on their website under ‘About Us’ section or in the website footer.
Changing a habit isn’t easy, yet is achievable with consistent focus and determination. It’s our time to protect our globe and our communities, so future generations have places to explore and visit.
Think of the future traveller, just like you…. they will thank you.