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)

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