Auditing animal welfare in tourism

Recently, some international tour operators have been conducting animal welfare audits in animal-based tourism companies located in Lapland. This is the first time that animal welfare audits are conducted in Finnish animal-based tourism companies. The audits help the tour operators to ensure that their suppliers are operating according to their animal welfare policies.  Most of these animal welfare policies are based on the “Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism” defined by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Our expert José-Carlos García-Rosell was able to join one of the audits conducted in one of our project companies in December 2017.

What is the animal welfare audit about?

The idea of the audit is that a team of auditors is assigned with the task to assess the welfare of animals working in tourism. The auditors can work for the tour operator or an inspection company contracted for the assignment. The auditors assess the welfare of animals according to a given criteria. The companies to be audited are contacted in advance to set a time for the visit. Usually, the auditors have a list of the companies and premises to be contacted for the audits. These companies have usually a contract with the tour operator requesting the audit. In some cases, contractors of the supplier of the tour operator could also be asked to be audited. For example, the audit can be carried out in an animal-based tourism company selling services to a destination management company that has a contract with the tour operator.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

The audit can take between 2 and 5 hours. It depends on the location, type of animals, company size and premises to be audited.  The auditors go through an interview guide together with representatives of the company being audited. They also visit the animal premises and may even take part in some of the activities offered by the company. The interview material is supported by visual material (pictures and videos) made during the on-site visit. After some weeks, the audited company is informed about the results of the audit. The audits are an important tool for the tour operators, as it allows them to gather information on the quality of animal-based services they sell. For an overview of different auditing practices check our report “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism”.

How do the audits work in Lapland?

The animal welfare audits have been designed to be used in different animal tourism services and attractions. This can be seen as a strength and a weakness. By using global animal welfare criteria, the audits face some limitations in considering the specific needs of different animal species and the way they are used in particular tourism contexts. For instance, sled dogs and elephants are common animals used in tourism, but they have totally different needs and requirements. Nevertheless, similar audit criteria may be applied to both animal species. Furthermore, since most audits have initially been developed for assessing the welfare of captive wild animals (elephants, dolphins, etc.) , it tends to stress the needs of those animals in the evaluation. This causes some challenges for assessing animal welfare in Lapland tourism.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

For example, one audit criterion may consider as negative if the skin of an animal is scratched or bleeding. Although this is important, it disregards the fact that reindeer rubs the antlers against hard surfaces to get the skin off in the late autumn. So blood in the antlers of reindeer is quite normal at that time of the year. Another criterion may require that animals are provided with a shelter, which is self-evident in other animal species. Nevertheless, this does not concern reindeer. As semi-wild animals, reindeer do not need shelter in the winter. Their hair is hollow which insulates them from the cold temperatures.

Auditing criteria may also see the chaining of animals as negative. In the case of sled dogs, a tether can sometimes be a better option for the dog than a kennel. Similarly, the audits may lack more specific criteria that is necessary for guaranteeing the welfare of reindeer and sled dogs.

What to conclude?

The fact that there are some limitations in the audits does not mean that they are not beneficial or needed. On the contrary, we should be appreciative that we have animal welfare guidelines in the tourism industry and that tour operators are conducting these audits. These first audits clearly indicate that animal welfare in tourism is becoming an important issue for both companies and consumers. Indeed, there will be an increase in the number of animal welfare audits conducted in the near future.

These first auditing experiences open new possibilities for developing an animal welfare criteria that are suitable for the animals working in Lapland tourism. This is part of the work we are doing in the last phase of our project. We are doing this work in cooperation with local companies, international tour operators and experts in the fields of responsible tourism and animal welfare. As a whole, this will support our local companies in developing their animal welfare policies and business operation in a way that benefit both the animals and the industry.

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell and Mikko Äijälä.

Towards good animal-based tourism practices in Lapland

Launching the process of action and research

In August 2017, we started an action research (AR) process that aims to produce and disseminate good practices concerning animal welfare. The focus is mainly on sled dogs, reindeer and horses. To that end, we invited our project companies to engage in a dialogue with each other and other stakeholders. Indeed, we want to create a fertile ground for the development of future animal welfare monitoring practices for the tourism industry in Lapland. The AR process consists of a planning, acting, observing and reflecting phase that will be implemented between August 2017 and April 2018. We illustrate the AR process and multi-stakeholder dialogue in the images below.

 

Small workshops on sled dogs, reindeer and horses

As the first step of the AR process, we invited the project companies to join a small workshop to discuss about animal welfare in relation to their own operations. In total, we organized four small workshops during August-October 2017. We divided the workshops according to animal species. Indeed, two workshops focused on sled dogs, one on reindeer and one on horses. The workshops took place in Muonio, Rovaniemi and Kuusamo. The discussions in the workshops were guided by – but not limited to – three main themes: information sharing, monitoring and the link between employees’ well-being and animal welfare. We identified these themes during previous studies conducted in the project. We audio-recorded all meetings. Then, we carefully examined and summarized the discussions from the meetings into a report.

 

Photos: JC García-Rosell & Tarja Salmela

Large workshop with companies and external experts

As second step of the AR process, we organized a large workshop in Rovaniemi on October 21, 2017. We invited the project companies and and key stakeholder representatives to join us in the event. The aim of the large workshop was to discuss the outcomes of the small workshops and receive feedback from stakeholders with expertise in animal welfare and responsible tourism. Indeed, we counted with the participation of representatives of two international tourism companies: Meike Witt (Exploring Iceland) and Vicki Brown (Responsible Travel). Also Satu Raussi (The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare) and Kati Pulli (Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Associations) joined us to share their expertise on animal welfare. Finally, Mia Halmén (The Finnish Association for Fair Tourism) took part in the workshop as a responsible tourism expert. Before joining the workshop, these representatives read the report from the small workshops.

What next?

In the workshops, we were able to exchange ideas and views on how and what kind of practices should be developed for monitoring the welfare of sled dogs, reindeer and horses. In the next months, we will focus on developing a set of guidelines for animal welfare communication and questions for auditing animal welfare in tourism companies operating in Lapland. Furthermore, we will use these guidelines for performing animal welfare auditing simulations in some of the project companies. Meike Witt already helped us to develop questions for assessing the animal welfare practices of horse stables. We will keep reporting on the AR process. So stay tuned!

In the video below, Tarja Salmela and Meike Witt send some greetings and briefly tell about the work done so far.

 

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

Animals at work in Lapland

An article titled “Animals at Work”, which discusses animal welfare in tourism, was included in the latest Rovakaira’s customer magazine (in Finnish).  Rovakaira is one of the energy suppliers in Finnish Lapland. The article was written by Mia Sivula. The text is based on interviews with Miia Merkku (Arctic Reindeer) and Päivi Hiukka (Polar Lights Tours). Miia and Päivi are two of the entrepreneurs involved in the projects “Animals and Responsible Tourism” and “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services”.

The article introduces both projects and the work done by the University of Lapland and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences on  animal welfare in tourism. In the article, Mia Sivula draws attention to two important issues surrounding the animal welfare discussion in tourism: customer education and an animal-center perspective.

Customer education

As stated in the article, tourists are usually not familiar with the animals working in Lapland tourism. Indeed, most visitors are unaware of the living conditions and needs of animals such as huskies and reindeer. As a result, there is a need to educate visitors on the animals they may interact with during their visit. As Miia Merkku explains, they have to teach tourists reindeer manners as they teach human manners to reindeer. In fact, a better awareness of the animals may lead to greater welfare and tourist experiences.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

An animal-center perspective

In order to guarantee the well-being of the animals, it is is important that service provider put animals first. Customer should not always be king when it comes to animal-based tourism services. For example, Miia Merkku has many times said no to the request from customers to get inside the reindeer fence. As she explains, the fence area is the reindeer home and where they can just be among themselves. They have a right to their own private sphere. Also for Päivi Hiukka the well-being of their dogs come first and she expects the same attitude from their customers.

 

Photo: Polar Lights Tours

 

Text: JC García-Rosell (based on the article written by Mia Sivula)

Animal tourism work

At the beginning of November, we helped organize a seminar focusing on well-being at work in tourism. Animal tourism work was included in the seminar programme (in Finnish).  We cannot neglect animals when discussing well-being in relation to tourism work. Indeed, tourism work is performed by both people and animals. As David Fennell (2012) explains, animals perform different form of labor (e.g. pulling, carrying) that contributes to tourism experiences in unique settings. Furthermore, in our project, we have identified a clear relationship between the well-being of workers and animals laboring in animal-based tourism firms. The animal welfare presentations in the seminar were giving by Mikko Äijälä, Outi Kähkönen and Miia Merkku from Arctic Reindeer. The presentation can be found here.

Animal tourism work in Lapland

Tourism work in Lapland touches the lives of thousands of humans and animals. In fact, many of the services sold to tourists are based on animals such as huskies, reindeer and horses among other species. In Particular, huskies and reindeer are popular among international tourists. Sled dog and reindeer safaris are usually among the top 10 things to do in Lapland. Last year sled dog safaris overcame snow mobile safaris as the most popular winter activity. Snow mobiles were on the top since its introduction in the late 1980s. Now sled dog safaris are in and growing very fast.

The organization and execution of these safaris demand trained staff who knows how to work with the animals. In Lapland, there are around 2000 tourism workers working directly with animals. The work may included safari guiding, feeding, taking care of the animals as well as their shelters. As a result, the lives of these workers and animals are closely interrelated. We have estimated the number of animal working in tourism to be around ten thousand. Approximately 70 per cent of them are huskies and 15 per cent reindeer. These two animal species work mainly in the winter season. Animal welfare is one of the issues that need to be considered in a fast growing Lapland tourism industry.

The concept of animal work

Kendra Coulter just published a book called “Animals, Work and the Promise of Interdisciplinary Solidarity”. She uses the concept of animal work as framework to critically evaluate the work done with, by and for animals. In the book, Kendra challenges the reader to reflect on work involving animals and its implications for both human and animal well-being. In particular, she draws attention to the connections and differences between work performed by people and animals. Although we recognize that human and animal workers are connected, their situation is not similar. For example, animal workers do not have a choice about what they do and where they work. Also, as Kendra points out, laws and policies are in place to better protect people at work. There is lack of legal infrastructure for governing animals’ working lives. If you are interested in human-animal labor relations, this book should be part of your book shelf collection.

Text: JC García-Rosell

Dog sledding adventures in Pyhä-Luosto

This blog post introduces  Arctic Husky Farm, a Finnish tourism company offering dog sledding adventures in PyhäLuosto area, Lapland.  The post offers a short interview with Katri Nikko. Katri has worked as kennel attendant and safari guide in the company since 2013. Arctic Husky Farm is one of the 10 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. They offer dog sledding of different lengths through the beautiful Finnish nature. Arctic Husky Farm has about 180 Alaskan Huskies and 20 Siberian Huskies.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

In the interview, Katri talks about her company, dogs and the way their operations are organized. She also draws attention to the importance of animal welfare in their company. Towards the end of the interview, we had the possibility to visit their puppies, the future stars of Arctic Husky Farm. The interview was conducted by JC García-Rosell on August 11, 2017.

 

Icelandic horses and heritage

Lýtingsstaðirin Horse Farm

Last May, Animal Tourism Visit Finland visited Lýtingsstaðirin Horse Farm. The farm is situated in Skagafjörður, in the North of Iceland. Evelyn and Sveinn, the owners of the farm, are strongly committed to animal welfare and the preservation of cultural heritage. Indeed, they do not only have hundred of horses, but also traditional Icelandic turf houses and stables.  Evelyn and Sveinn see their horses as a big part of their life. Their philosophy is based on breeding horses that are reliable, well trained and lovingly cared for.

The turf stables give an inside view of how horses were kept in the past. Visitors can also see a display of old tools, tack and other items connected with horses and farming. As Evelyn pointed out, they want their guest to learn about Iceland, Icelandic people and their horses. Evelyn want to focus on small groups and the idea to offer services with a personal touch.

In the video below, Evelyn  Ýr Kuhne from Lýtingsstaðirin Horse Farm tells more about their farm, tourism services and animal welfare practices.

 

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

 

Animal Tourism Finland goes UK!

During the first week of September, Animal Tourism Finland visited the UK. The main reason for the trip was to take part in the conference “The Visitor Economy: Strategies and Innovations” organized by Bournemouth University. The conference included a track on animals and tourism. The session was organized by Prof. Susanna Curtin (Bournemouth University) and Prof. David Fennell (Brock University). After the conference we traveled to London to meet with Hugh Felton and Clare Jenkinson from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Animal Tourism Finland was represented by J.C. García-Rosell, Tarja Salmela and Mikko Äijälä.

Animals and tourism

The conference track on animals and tourism invited discussions on the interaction between people and animals in tourism settings. As such, it aimed to draw attention to the growth of animal-based tourism activities, the spectrum of tourists’ perceptions of animal attractions and examples of poor and good practice.

The presentations

There were six presentations in the track. Three of them were delivered by Animal Tourism Finland researchers. Indeed, Tarja Salmela, Mikko Äijälä and J.C. García-Rosell presented a paper titled “Insights into the Certification of Animal Welfare in Tourism”. The presentation was based on the results presented in the report “Quality Monitoring Practices in Animal-Based Tourism”. In his presentation “Animal Agency in Tourism: Sled dogs in Finnish Lapland”, Mikko Äijälä discussed the role and agency of sled dogs in a tourism context. J.C. García-Rosell and Prof. Philip Hancock (Essex Business School) presented a paper titled “Christmas Tourism and the Cultivation and Symbolism of Lapland’s Reindeer”. The paper offers some reflections on the emergence of the Lapland reindeer as an economic resource, both as a carnally appropriated raw material, and as a mythical beast of Christmas folklore.

Prof. Susanna Curtin presented a paper titled  “Morally torn but aesthetically persuaded: Why zoos are still attractive”. Her presentation drew attention to the current attitudes of tourists towards animal-based attractions such as zoos and marine parks. Rie Usui (Hiroshima University) delivered a presentation called “Investigating animal ethics and wildlife management issues at a nature-based tourism setting”. Her presentations offers moral reflections on current wildlife management practices implemented in Yakushima Island, Japan. Also Clare Jenkinson (ABTA Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager) took part in the track by given a presentation on ABTA policies and actions concerning animal-based tourism. If you would like to read more about the presentations included in the track, please check out the conference proceedings.

Sustainability in practice: TUI and ABTA

In the conference, there was also a track focusing on practical implementation of sustainability. TUI and ABTA were two of the tourism organizations represented in this track. Clare Jenkinson (Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager, ABTA) offered an overview of the work done by ABTA concerning sustainability issues. She also emphasized the role of partnerships with destination governments in promoting more sustainable practices. Similarly, Jane Ashton (Director of Sustainable Development, TUI) talked about how TUI is tackling sustainability in a globalized tourism industry. She drew especial attention to TUI sustainability strategy for 2020 “Better Holidays, Better World” and how it has been driven by company values, investors, consumers and other stakeholders.

Visit to ABTA

After the conference, Animal Tourism Finland headed to London to meet Hugh Felton (Senior Sustainable Tourism Executive) and Clare Jenkinson (Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager) at the ABTA headquarters. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for sharing experiences on animal-based tourism. Indeed, we were able not only to tell about our work in Lapland, but also to familiarize ourselves with ABTA’s initiatives. One of them is The Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, which are available to ABTA Members and their suppliers. So, if your company is doing business with an ABTA member, you can have access to these guidelines. You just have to ask your ABTA client to make them available to you.

The ABTA Animal welfare guidelines consist of six manuals which provide a set of minimum requirements designed to assist in improving animal welfare as well as phasing out poor practice. For animal-based tourism companies in Lapland, the manuals focusing on working animals and wildlife viewing are the most interesting ones. For example, the manual on working animals includes some welfare criteria for sled dogs. Through the animal welfare guidelines, ABTA aims to make sure that animals used in tourism are treated humanely, with respect and in accordance with transparent and robust animal welfare standards.

 

Text: JC García-Rosell

Responsible Finnhorseback riding in Kuusamo

This blog post introduces a company case of responsible animal-based tourism from Kuusamo, Finland.  The post offers a short interview with Sanna Kallunki. She is one of the owners of Ruska Laukka.  The company is situated in Ronivaara farm (Kuusamo), close to Ruka Ski Resort. Ruska Laukka is one of the 11 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. In the interview, Sanna talks about her company, company values and passion for Finnhorses. She tells about their variety of horse services.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Indeed, Ruska Laukka offers not only horseback riding programs, but also riding lessons and social pedagogic horse activities. In the interview, Sanna stresses the importance of animal welfare in their business operations. For example, their horses live in field shelters and work no more than a specific number of daily working hours. Sanna also tells about their interest in promoting biodiversity and the natural environment. Ruska Laukka’s riding paths go through beautiful forest and field pastures.  Ruska Laukka has been approved by the Equestrian Federation of Finland. The interview was conducted by JC García-Rosell. Date: June 15, 2017.

 

Animals have enormous value in tourism

In this post, we provide access to an article referring to the project “Animal and Responsible Tourism” and its sister project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services” in Aamulehti (Finnish newspaper). The article “Animals have enormous value in tourism” was written by José-Carlos García-Rosell and Tarja Salmela and published in Finnish in the June 11, 2017. The article was triggered by our reflections after participating in the Finnish Human-Animal Studies seminar “Valuable Animal” organized by the Finnish Society for Human−Animal Studies in April 2017.

In the article, we draw attention to the value of animals for the tourism industry. For example, we draw attention to the fact that the brand of many destinations are based on animals such as a bull (Spain), reindeer (Finland), panda (China) and Kangaroo (Australia). Also tourism companies used animals as part of their brand value. Moreover, animals play an essential role in the travel experiences of many tourists. A trip to Africa are usually associated to a safari. Similarly, when  thinking of Iceland, one think of whale watching or horseback riding.

Tourists are not indifferent to the treatment of animal used in tourism. More and more tourists are interested in the well-being of the animals they get in touch with. Indeed, Animal welfare is a growing concern in the tourism industry. Global tourism companies like TUI and TripAdvisor have already taken these concerns seriously and are working towards better animal welfare practices in the tourism industry.

 

Aamulehti 11.6.2017

 

Text: JC García-Rosell

Ethical tourism consumption and animals

Animals in tourism -seminar

On June 12, 2017, we organized a seminar that brought together a group of experts to share knowledge and exchange experiences about the notion of responsible consumption in relation to animal-based tourism. Researcher Maria Pecoraro (University of Jyväskylä), Travel Writer and Editor Vicki Brown (Responsible Travel) and Professor Anu Valtonen (University of Lapland) were among the key note presenters. Also Minni Haanpää and Tarja Salmela from our research team presented preliminary findings of our ongoing studies. In this post, we want to offer an overview of the main arguments and ideas presented in the key notes.

Ethical consumption and animal welfare

In her key note, Maria Pecoraro focused on discussing ethical consumption in relation to animal welfare. She started her speech by drawing attention to the attitudes of Europeans towards animal welfare. Indeed, according to the Eurobarometer on Animal Welfare 2016, 89% of European citizens believes there should be EU legislation that oblige people to care for animals used for commercial purposes. Although the document focuses particularly on farm animals, it has also implications for animals used in tourism.

Pecoraro stressed that ethical consumption is a dynamic and contextual phenomenon, involving different meanings, values and ideologies.  She also drew attention to how producers and consumers may approach animal welfare differently. Producers may view it as an issue related to performance and productivity. For consumers, on the other hand, animal welfare may be more about empathy with the emotions and feelings of non-human animals.

 

Photo: Jaana Ojuva

 

Responsible tourism in practice

Vicki Brown stressed that the idea of “responsible travel” doesn’t refer to a niche market of ethical consumers. On contrary, it is mainstream, reaching a large consumer base. To make her point, she used the example of “Undercover Tourists” – a BBC TV show watched by millions of people in the UK. In the show, undercover wildlife activists travel to holiday destinations to investigate cases  of animal abuse. She also discussed how public interest in the impacts of tourism on society and animals is reflected in the success of  documentary films such as Gringo Trails, Black Fish, and Blood Lions.

Contemporary consumers are better informed, and expects their service providers to act responsibly. If their expectations are not met, they may express and share their dissatisfaction in social media spaces. Furthermore, responsibility requires collaborating not only with consumers, but also with different stakeholder such as non-governmental organizations and the media. To learn more about Vicki Brown’s experiences in the seminar and Rovaniemi, read the post “Responsible travel goes to the Arctic Circle”.

 

Photo: Jaana Ojuva

 

Ethics: the in- and outsiders

In her key note, Anu Valtonen offered an overview of consumer research focusing on human-animal relations. As she pointed out, most attention has been given to the relationship between humans and pets, farm animals and animals used in entertainment. In this discussions, moral reflections have revolved around the welfare and rights of animals as well as the ethics of hunting and fishing. So, large, charismatic and attractive animals (e.g. bears, lions, reindeer) have been at the spotlight of this debate. Which animals have been left out? What about mosquitoes and other insects?, Valtonen asked provocatively.

Despite the role of these small animals in society, they have been totally neglected when discussing human-animal relations. Even though they may have a huge impact on our daily consumption habits.  For example, in Lapland mosquitoes influence tourists and their activities. According to Valtonen, the study of animal-relations have been biased by western ideology that it is not shared by other societies. Indeed, she drew attention to the role play by insects in Asian societies. For example, Young-Sook Lee and colleagues showed in their study “Evidence for a South Korean Model of Ecotourism” how insects were seen as the main attraction in ecotourism sites in South Korea.

 

Photo: Jaana Ojuva

 

Encounters: Animals in tourism consumption

Minni Haanpää and Tarja Salmela pointed out that the target group of Finland “Modern Humanist” is more or less based on ethical consumerism. Ethical and value-driven consumption is particularly made explicit in human-animal encounters. Hence, there is a need to better understand who the ethical consumers are and what they expect from animal-based tourism service providers. The answer is not simple as ethical consumers are not an homogenus group. As Haanpää and Salmela stressed, ethical consumers have different roles, expectations and values. Their consumption doesn’t follow rational patterns, rather it is context dependent. For example, travel companion, destination and previous experiences can determine ethical consumption in a given time and space.

As a result, Haanpää and Salmela prefer to talk about perspectives on  ethical consumerism rather than types of ethical consumers. In their research on ethical consumerism in animal-based tourism services, they identified three perspectives: indifference towards animals, ethical treatment of animals and conscious rejection of animal-based services. These three perspectives determine the consumption or non-consumption of animal-based tourism services.

 

Photo: Jaana Ojuva

 

The seminar received positive feedback from the speakers and the audience. According to the audience, the seminar was useful for understanding the connection between animals and ethical consumption. In particular, the dialogue between industry representatives and academicians was seen as fruitful and rewarding.

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell