Exploring Iceland is a tour operator selling Iceland as a destination. Among their services, the company offers horseback riding tours with Icelandic horses. During my visit to Iceland in early May, I had the opportunity to visit this Icelandic tourism company. I met Steinunn Guðbjörnsdóttir (Owner and Managing Director) and Meike Witt (Sales and Product Manager). We sat down over a cup of coffee and talk about their company, Icelandic horses and animal welfare in tourism. Indeed, animal welfare is one of the guiding principles of the company.
Exploring Iceland has its own animal welfare policy which provides guidance for the responsible and respectful treatment of Icelandic horses. Both Exploring Iceland’s employees and business partners are expected to follow the animal welfare policy. Steinunn and Meike recognize the relevance of animal welfare in the tourism industry. Moreover, they believe that animal welfare is an essential aspect of responsible tourism.
By visiting Exploring Iceland, I was able to gain further insights into animal welfare in a Nordic context. I was also able to confirm that there is a need for certifications that focus on the welfare of horses used in tourism.
In the video below, Meike talks about their horse riding tours and some of the animal welfare practices of Exploring Iceland. If you want to know more about my visit to Iceland, please check our post from May 10, 2017.
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.
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.
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
I just came back from an inspiring trip to Iceland. I was captivated by the hospitality, nature and animals of this Nordic country. The main objective of my trip was to visit the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and Holar University College in North Iceland.The Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI) is strengthening research and educational collaboration with its Icelandic partners. The trip was also an opportunity to visit and interview Icelandic tourism companies, which services are based on encounters with animals. From this perspective, the trip helped collect more data and information for the Work Package 1 of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. The trip was funded by Erasmus+ and took place from May 1st till May 10th.
Animal-based tourism in Iceland
Horses and Whales
Animals are a very important element of tourism in Iceland. Icelandic horses are not only part of the brand of Iceland, but also a key constituent of Icelandic identity. Indeed, Icelandic people are very proud of their horses. Whale watching is also nowadays associated with a holiday in Iceland. According to Ice Whale, 20 per cent of tourists visiting Iceland take part in whale watching tours. The number of whale watching companies has considerably increased during the last decade. During this visit to Iceland, I was lucky to see two humpbacks whales and one minke whale from the shores of Hvammstangi in North Iceland. So with good luck, it is possible to see them from mainland too.
With more than 300 bird species, Iceland is a paradise for birdwatchers. Several tourism companies focus on this particular customer group. There is a bird that has also caught the attention of most travelers, the puffin. This Nordic bird, which live on the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and come to land just for breeding, has become a sensation among tourists. Many whale watching companies offer puffing watching tours. In some cases, puffing watching is combined with whale watching. Puffins are not only clever birds, but also very cute. This is the reason why the puffin has become one of Iceland’s most popular souvenirs.
Hunting and fishing
Hunting and fishing are also part of the tourism offering of Iceland. Many tourists come to fish in rivers or on the sea. Reindeer hunting is also offered by some tourism wildlife companies. Icelandic reindeer are wild animals and live in the East part of the country.
In Hvammstagi, there is also a tourism company that offers seal watching tours. A couple of companies in Iceland offer husky safaris. This is a new animal-based tourism service that could grow in the future. So Iceland offers a wide variety of animal-based activities and they are growing fast.
Meeting Icelandic tourism companies
During this trip, I had the opportunity to talk about animal welfare with local tourism companies. I met Sveinn H. Guðmundsson, who is the Quality and Environmental Manager of Elding – a whale watching company. Elding is highly committed to animal welfare and environmental issues. I also met Steinunn Guðbjörnsdóttir and Meike Witt from Exploring Iceland. Steinunn is Managing Director of the company and Meike works as Sales and Product Manager. Exploring Iceland is an Icelandic tour operator selling outdoor activities and horseback riding tours. Animal welfare is one the key guiding principles of the company.
In Husavik, I met Erna Björnsdóttir and Loes de Heus from Salka Whale Watching. Erna is Marketing Director and Loes works as tour guide. Salka is a small whale watching company operating one (and soon two) fishing oak boats in Húsavík. This small Icelandic fishing town is known as the capital of whale watching. Salka follows the Ice Whale code of conduct for responsible whale watching in Iceland and it has been active in the campaign “meet us, don’t eat us” in Húsavík. Because of the campaign, no whale meat can be found in the menus of Húsavík’s restaurants.
In Skagafjördur, I met Evelyn Ýr Kuhne, Eydís Magnusdóttir and Sigrún Ingriddóttir. These three female rural tourism entrepreneurs are jointly promoting their services under the name “The Icelandic Farms Animals”. Eydís owns Sölvanes Farmholidays which offers accommodation in an old farm house. She also offers visitors the opportunity to experience the everyday life of Icelandic sheep farmers. Sigrún runs Stórhóll Runalist Galleri where visitors can find handicrafts made out of natural materials. Visitors can also visits the Icelandic goats and other farm animals. In addition to a farm environment in Lýtingsstaðir, Evelyn offers horseback riding tours with a touch of Icelandic cultural heritage. In fact, she has reconstructed an Icelandic old stable made of turf (see picture below).
During the next months, I will publish posts and short videos about each of these visits. So stay tuned to learn more about responsible animal-based tourism in Iceland!
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”.
Seminar key notes
Animal welfare in the market
Minna Kaljonenfrom 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Buy products made by fairly paid workers. Take the vegan challenge. Buy green energy. These calls for ethical consumption are growing louder and becoming more prominent in wealthy societies around the world. Ethical consumption can be defined as the practice of purchasing products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and environmental damages. At the same time, it refers to the act of avoiding products and services deemed to have a negative impact on society or the natural environment.
According to Dr. Maria Pecoraro from the University of Jyväskylä, ethical consumption embraces a variety of consumption tendencies related to global ecological and social concerns and values. Indeed, the themes related to ethical deliberations of consumption vary from human and animal rights to environmental issues. Furthermore, it is a way to question consumption-oriented lifestyle in general.
The target group of Visit Finland’s marketing activities consists of people who have traveled a lot and are looking for unique experiences. This target group is known as “modern humanist”. Travelers belonging to this category appreciate quality of life, nature and responsibility. In this view, it seems that the consumption practices of modern humanists are driven by personal values, beliefs and life-views. In fact, we can see a clear connection between modern humanists and ethical consumption.
Who are the ethical consumers?
According to Visit Finland, modern humanists come from countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, USA and China. But do we know what are their values and beliefs? What role do these values play in their daily consumption practices? What are their attitudes towards animal-based tourism activities? We will address these questions in a video-ethnographic study conducted in close collaboration with our project partner Associate Professor Joonas Rokka from EMLYON Business School. In the study, we will not focus on modern humanists in general, but look at modern humanists who consider themselves as ethical consumers. To that end, we will focus on four countries, USA, Great Britain, France and China.
Fieldwork just started!
With a beautiful Spring weather, we launched the video-ethnographic fieldwork in April. On April 5, we were in Hetta Huskies and on April 6, we visited Harriniva in Fell Lapland. During our visit, we took part in husky and reindeer safaris. On April 8, we visited Northern Gate Safaris in Rovaniemi. We have conducted several interviews and observed production and consumption practices in the respective companies. We collected data mainly through video. During the next months, we will continue the fieldwork in different locations. So stay tuned for more updates!
This post and the video below are based on the article “Literature Review: Animals as part of Tourism” – an outcome of the project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services”. The article was published in Finnish in the Finnish Journal of Tourism Research. The study was conducted by Mikko Äijälä, JC García-Rosell and Minni Haanpää. “The main objectives of the literature review was to gain a better understanding of human-animal encounters in tourism studies.”
Animals in Tourism
Animals play a key role in the creation of tourism and leisure experiences. They have become icons and symbols of destinations around the world. Tourism is another significant industry that has turned animals into organizational resources to achieve economic goals. It is not surprising that concern for animal rights and welfare has been growing among tourism scholars and the public in general. From this perspective, tourism offers an excellent empirical context for the theoretical problematization of human-animal encounters.
Searching for animal-related tourism studies
We conducted a search in a data based called Hospitality & Tourism Complete in order to identify tourism and hospitality studies focusing on animals. To that end, we used the search word “animal*”. We were able to identified a total number of 77 relevant articles. We complemented this sample of articles with other literature sources (e.g. books, dissertations). We found out that most of the studies were published between 2000 and 2016.
Three main research perspectives
Through the review, we determined that human-animal encounters in tourism studies have been discussed from three major perspectives:
Ethical perspective: This perspective deals with the moral deliberation about the use of animals in tourism. Three ethical theories are highlighted: Eco-centrism, utilitarianism (animal welfare) and animal rights.
Consumer perspective: This perspective approaches animals from the point of view of tourists. This stream of literature focuses on the attitudes towards animals, the role of animals in creating tourism experiences and the educational value of animal encounters.
Management perspectives: This perspective focuses on the management of spaces inhabited by animals (e.g. zoos, national parks, wildlife areas). It also draws attention to the coordination of different activities (e.g. hunting, bird watching, hiking) within the same physical space.
In general, most studies have focused on evaluating the role of animals in the production of different tourism experiences, as well as their rights and welfare in relation to the work they perform. These studies were located in Asia, Africa and Australia. Zoos and wildlife have also been a popular research focus. Few studies have examined animal agency as a part of human-animal tourism encounters. Also few attention has been given to the animal-based activities in a Nordic context.
At the end of 2016, Animal Tourism Finlandlooked 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.
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”.
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!