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.
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.
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.
Text: JC García-Rosell (based on the article written by Mia Sivula)
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Before leaving for the Christmas holiday, Animal Tourism Finland would like to deliver an important message from Santa Claus and Rudolph who are two of our lovely neighbors here in the City of Rovaniemi, Finland.
This is a short interview with Miia Merkku, CEO of Arctic Reindeer, which is located in Rovaniemi, Finland. Arctic Reindeer is one of the 11 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. In the interview Miia talks about her company, tourism services and workmates, the reindeers. She also explains what was the main motivation for joining the project. The interview was conducted by Minni Haanpää in August 31, 2016.
This is the first article written about the project “Animal and Responsible Tourism” and its sister project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services” in a local newspaper. The article was written by Sinikka Pylkkänen (in Finnish) and published in Lapin Kansa on July 8, 2016. The article is based on interviews with project researchers and experts, a husky tourism entrepreneur and a veterinarian working for the local public health department.
The article titled “The tourist thanks when the husky does well” draw attention to the relevance of animals and their welfare in a tourism context. Nowadays tourists are interested in knowing about how the animals are treated and taken care of. The article also points out that animal welfare is an essential aspect of responsible tourism.