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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The value of animals in society

The value of animals in society

“Valuable animal” – seminar

What kind of moral, economic and cultural values are related to other animals than humans? How do the values given to animals influence the way they are treated? These questions were addressed in the Finnish Human-Animal Studies seminar “Valuable Animal”. The seminar is organized every year by the Finnish Society for Human−Animal Studies – a society promoting research on human−animal relations in social sciences and humanities in Finland. The seminar was held in the House of Science and Letters in Helsinki on April 24th and 25th. It invited researchers across Finland to discuss the value of animals in contemporary society. The abstracts of the seminar are available here (in Finnish). Animal Tourism Finland was there to present findings from studies conducted in the projects “Animals and Responsible Tourism” and “Animal Welfare and Tourism Services”.

 

Photo: Vesa Markuksela

 

Seminar key notes

Animal welfare in the market

Minna Kaljonen from the Finnish Environment Institute started the seminar with a key note focusing on the evaluation practices of animal welfare in the marketplace. Although the focus was on farm animals, her speech reflected some of the practices used to evaluate the welfare of animals working in tourism. Kaljonen argued that animal welfare cannot be considered as ‘singular’ and its evaluation as straight-forward. Indeed, animal welfare is evaluated differently in different types of markets. Furthermore, she stressed that to understand and enhance animal welfare in consumer markets we must turn towards the market to explore it instead of simply criticizing it.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Emotions, attention and affective animal ethics

The second day of the seminar started with philosopher Elisa Aaltola’s key note on emotions, attention and affective animal ethics. In her speech, she drew attention to animal ethics as a discussion dominated by the rational tradition. The affective turn, which has been recognized in multiple fields of study, challenges rational thinking by stressing the role of emotions – such as anger, guilt, fear and disgust – in moral philosophy. Together with cultural stereotypes, which influence the way we related to other animals, emotions form the basis for intuition and moral deliberation. At the same time, she explained how attentiveness provides a means to declare to ourselves, and to others, what emotions we wish to enhance. In fact, affective moral agency offers an opportunity to promote empathy towards all types of animals.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Animal Tourism Finland’s presentations

Next a short overview of the presentations delivered by the Animal Tourism Finland research team.

[Humananimal] – disrupting the boundaries

Tarja Salmela-Leppänen gave a presentation titled “[Humananimal] – disrupting the boundaries (and the potential within)”. In the presentation, she drew attention to the deep, moral problem in the creation of an exclusionary boundary between human and non-human animals. She also stressed the vastly unrecognized agency of more-than-human animals in organizational inquiry. This boundary has led to neglecting non-human organizational members or even reducing them to mere economic resources. This boundary has far-reaching consequences as it shapes the way more-than-human animals are treated and considered in society. With the help of a visual presentation, Salmela-Leppänen gave room for the recognition of the animality within us.  By acknowledging humans as animals, she questioned premises that may justify the privilege of one type of animal over other.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

The value of animals in Lapland tourism

Mikko Äijälä, JC García-Rosell and Maria Hakkarainen presented “The Value of Animals in Lapland Tourism”. The presentation offered preliminary findings from interviews conducted with animal-based tourism companies and destination marketing organizations in Lapland. The study shows that the value of animals is discussed in relation to different tourism practices such as animal care, customer safety, animal welfare expertise, the law and tourism marketing. In addition, the value of animals is stressed when companies compare their animal welfare practices to the practices of other companies or destinations. By viewing animals as individuals, certain types of values are attached to them. In general, the presentation showed how intrinsic and instrumental values are emphasized in talks about animals used in tourism.

 

Photo: Tarja Salmela-Leppänen

 

As a whole, we think that the conference provided a valuable opportunity to network with researches across Finland with expertise in societal animal studies. The Animal Tourism Finland research team is eagerly waiting to participate in the first international Human-Animal Studies conference to be held in Turku, Finland in 2018. In the video below, Salmela-Leppänen offers a brief overview of the seminar.

 

 

Text: Tarja Salmela-Leppänen and José-Carlos Garcia-Rosell

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Animals in Matka Nordic Travel Fair 2017

Matka Nordic Travel Fair

The Matka Nordic Travel Fair is organized every year in Helsinki, Finland. It counts with more than 1000 exhibitors from 80 different countries. As an event, the Matka Nordic Travel Fair offers an excellent space for discovering new products, services and business partners. It is also a place for spotting trends and issues shaping the global tourism industry. This year animals seemed to play an important role in the fair. Their presence could already be felt in the main entrance of the fair, where a lion was showing the way in.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

Animals in the spotlight

Not only images of animals could be seen in the marketing material available in the Fair, but also many animal-based tourism services were promoted in the event. For example, Visit Uganda and Tanzania  were promoting animal encounters as one of their main tourism offerings. In addition, several panel discussions, which took place during the Fair, drew attention to animals and their welfare. In one of the panels organized by Mondo travel magazine, Helena Egan from TripAdvisor highlighted how TripAdvisor is taking responsibility for making their customers aware of animal-related ethical questions. The significance of animal welfare in tourism was also addressed in Finnish television in an interview with JC García-Rosell and Maria Hakkarainen from the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI), University of Lapland.

Animals in Matkatieto-seminar

Animals and their welfare were also included in the programme of the Matkatieto-seminar. JC García-Rosell from Animal Tourism Finland delivered two presentations in the seminar. While one presentation focused on discussing “the certification of animal welfare in tourism”, the other presentation offered some facts about “the economic role of animal-based tourism services in Lapland”. The presentations captured the attention and interest of tourism researchers, tourism practitioners and the media.

Photo: Maria Hakkarainen

The presentations were based on research conducted by Animal Tourism Finland. After the presentations, JC García-Rosell was interviewed by Saara Rantanen from MTV3 News. The topic of the interview was tourism trends in 2017. More detailed information about these studies will be provided in future posts. So, stay tuned!

Text: JC García-Rosell

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