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

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Responsible whale watching practices – Salka

Salka Whale Watching

Last May, Animal Tourism Visit Finland visited Salka Whale Watching in Húsavík, Iceland. Salka Whale Watching is a family owned tourism company. It takes visitors to see whales, puffins and other wildlife on traditional oak boats. The company is strongly committed to sustainability and responsible tourism practices. Indeed, Salka is one of the 12 IceWhale operators operating in Iceland. As an IceWhale operator Salka follows IceWhale code of conduct for responsible whale watching. The company has also been a key supporter of the “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us” campaign which has aimed to take whale meat off the menu for tourists. As a joint project between IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and IceWhale (the Association of Icelandic Whale Watchers), the campaign “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us”, has been around since summer 2010. As a result of this campaign, no restaurant in Húsavík serves whale meat nowadays.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Húsavík

Húsavík is well-known for being  one of the best places in the world to see whales. Indeed, Skjálfandi Bay, where Húsavík is located, is a plankton- rich area. No wonder why whale watching in Iceland started in this small town. Due to this long history and high percentage of whales, Húsavík deserves to be called “the whale  capital of Iceland”. During the visit, Animal Tourism Finland was able to learn more about Salka’s operations and their responsible approach to whale watching. The visit was crowned with a whale watching tour on Salka’s oat boat “Fanney”. The tour was a great opportunity for experiencing Salka’s whale watching practices in action.

In the video below, Loes de Heus from Salka tells more about their services, customers and responsible whale watching practices.

 

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

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EAZA – an animal welfare standard

EAZA is one of the animal welfare standards used in Europe. EAZA stands for European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. As a membership organization, it aims to improve animal welfare, education, research and conservation. The organization was founded in 1992 and it counts with over 370 member institutions in 44 countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. In Finland, Helsinki Zoo, Ähtäri Zoo and Ranua Zoo are accredited by EAZA.  EAZA is one of the standards included in the study “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism” (see our previous post)

In the video below, Ranua Zoo’s Curator Mari Heikkilä tells briefly about EAZA membership, its benefits and how it contributes to animal welfare. She also discusses the challenge of measuring and assessing animal welfare in practice. Finally, she explains what other animal welfare certifications could learn from EAZA.

 

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Monitoring animal welfare in tourism

Insights into quality certifications including animal welfare criteria

One of the objectives of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism” was to examine quality standards including animal welfare criteria. To that end, we conducted an evaluation of a wide range of both national and international certifications and quality labels. Furthermore, we interviewed five certified animal-based tourism service providers. The service providers interviewed operate in Canada, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. They offer services such as whale watching, dog sledding and horseback riding. The study helps understand how animal welfare is considered in existing tourism quality standards. It also offers insights into the benefits of these standards for the operation of animal-based tourism companies. The results of the study can be found in the report “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism” (see below).

 

 

Click on the picture to access the report.

 

In the video below, Tarja Salmela-Leppänen offers an overview of the content and main highlights of the report. The video is meant to serve as an introduction to the report.

 

 

Tarja Salmela-Leppänen, Mikko Äijälä and J.C. García-Rosell will present the results of this study in the conference “The Visitor Economy: Strategies and Innovation”. The conference takes place at Bournemouth University, U.K. on 4-6 September, 2017. The presentation is part of the track “Animals and Tourism” . The track has been organized by Doctor Susanna Curtin and Professor David Fennell.

 

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