Building up expertise for responsible animal-based tourism

During our visit to Helsinki (see post April 28, 2017), we had a chance to have a cup of coffee and discuss our future collaboration with wonderful people representing responsible tourism and animal welfare expertise. These people included Tytti McVeigh from The Finnish Association for Fair Tourism, Satu Raussi and Tiina Kauppinen from The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare and animal welfare consultant Essi Wallenius.

Experts in animal welfare and responsible tourism

We have been looking for experts to collaborate with our research team and the tourism companies involved in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. Together with animal welfare and responsible tourism experts, we will focus on the development of criteria for the ethical treatment of animals used in tourism in the Arctic region. We are doing this in close collaboration with the project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services”.  We will invite a selected group of experts to join workshops, meet the project companies, and engage in knowledge exchange about animal welfare in relation to responsible tourism. This group of experts will definitely complement  our tourism research expertise and help us to work towards the project objectives.  Furthermore, responsible tourism experts with practical experience will provide valuable insights into the value of animals in today’s tourism industry.

The Finnish Association for Fair Tourism

We were delighted to connect with Tytti McVeigh and Mia Halmén from the Finnish Association for Fair Tourism (FAFT). As a non-profit organization (NGO), FAFT takes a broad, global perspective on fair tourism. In so doing, it aims to promote responsible tourism by fostering dialogues about ethical choices when traveling. Moreover, FAFT aims to educate travelers and tourism operators about the principles of fair tourism. With FAFT’s expertise, we are able to gain further insights into the current recognition of animal welfare in global tourism. FAFT can also help us to identify existing challenges and opportunities for the development of ethical and quality criteria for animal-based tourism services. Indeed,  FAFT has been involved in the development of eco-certifications.

Photo: José-Carlos García-Rosell

The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare

As representatives of The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare (EHK in Finnish), Satu Raussi and Tiina Kauppinen are part of a network of animal welfare specialists in Finland. The Centre is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland. EHK aims to improve and safeguard the welfare of animals through active stakeholder collaboration. The expertise of EHK, which is highly valuable for our project, is based on scientific research and knowledge. Indeed, Tiina and Satu can help us to understand animal welfare in general and in relation to tourism. In particular, we found their expertise to be essential for the development of criteria for the ethical treatment of animals in tourism. You can watch Satu’s and Tiina’s greetings in our post November 16, 2016.

Photo: José-Carlos García-Rosell

Animal Welfare consultants

Essi Wallenius works as an animal welfare consultant. Her expertise is in quality monitoring, auditing and communication of animal welfare. Essi holds a broad working experience in animal welfare. She has work in research, public offices and project consulting services related especially to welfare of livestock. In addition to her animal welfare expertise, Essi also has a wealth of experience in animal welfare communication. Indeed, Essi holds knowledge in responsible communication and marketing related to animal welfare. This knowledge is relevant for the development animal welfare communication strategies in the tourism industry.

We are really looking forward to starting our collaboration!

 

Text: Tarja Salmela-Leppänen, Mikko Äijälä & José-Carlos García-Rosell

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Animal welfare in tourism: society’s changing values

Animal Welfare in tourism

At the end of 2016, Animal Tourism Finland looked back at some of the major animal tourism stories. TripAdvisor stopping the selling of tickets to attractions that involve physical contact with wild animals or endangered species and Sea World San Diego announcing that 2016 will be the last year of theatrical killer whale experience. These initiatives show how companies are listening to their customers and redesigning their animal-based services according to their customer values. As Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld said “The main point [for this decision] is we are listening to our guests”.

Also in Finland, we have seen that the topic of animal welfare in tourism has been in the news lately. While the case of Särkänniemi’s dolphins was among the top stories in the media, animal tourism related stories have constantly been in the news. For example, news about how the husky safaris are gaining popularity among Asian tourists and discussions around the development of wolf tourism in Lieksa. Also Tytti McVeigh (Finnish Association for Fair Tourism) in a interview given to Talouselämä recently observed that Finnish tourists are becoming more and more interested in animal welfare.

Animal-welfare-Reindeer-Lapland
Photo: JC García-Rosell

These developments in the tourism industry are not isolated from the rest of society. In fact, they are happening due to changing values in society.

Animal-friendly consumer values

In a study published in the Journal of Biological Conservation in 2016, it was reported how the attitudes of Americans towards animals has changed during the past decades. Similarly, a study conducted with Chinese university students in 2010 showed positive attitudes and opinions toward animals welfare initiatives. These studies are indicative of growing concern for the welfare of animals both wild and domestic. These developments have been reflected in the media. For example, South China Morning Post reported last December on China’s growing animal rights movement and Newsweek closed the year with a report on society’s increasing positive views of non-human animals. As consumer, humans are beginning to see non-human animals as individuals with personalities, preferences and rights.

Human-animal relations in the spotlight

The importance of human-animal relations were also addressed in the traditional New Year’s Speech of the President of Finland. President Sauli Niinistö referred to these relations when citing Director Juha Hurme “People, animals and plants, all from the same root, made of the same matter”. He then continued by reflecting on his encounter with Sulo Karjalainen “the bear man”. As President Niinisto said “Sulo Karjalainen looks at a bear and the animal looks at him, face to face. Do they understand something, even a lot, about each other? Humanity or animality, both creatures of nature”.

Animal-Welfare-Lapland
Photo: Tarja Salmela-Leppänen

The Finnish Animal Welfare Act is under reform. There are plans to acknowledge the intrinsic value of animals in the new Finnish Animal Welfare Act. The intrinsic value of animals refers to the value an animal possesses in its own right, as an end-in-itself. From this perspective, animal welfare becomes a question of protecting animals, rather than simply evaluating the morality of human practices toward animals. The Dutch Animal Welfare Act recognized the intrinsic value of animals in 1981.

“The values of animals” will be discussed in the up-coming Animal Studies Conference organized by the Finnish Society for Human−Animal Studies in April 24.-25, 2017 in Helsinki. Animal Tourism Finland will take part in the conference. The event will be an excellent forum for discussing the value of animals for tourism companies and tourists.

The year 2017 will be a year full of exciting discussions on animal welfare. Some of these discussions will be related to tourism and Animal Tourism Finland will definitely be part of them!

Text: JC García-Rosell

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