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‘World-first’ legislation passes in the UK, to protect wildlife from harmful tourist activities.

A UK-based conservation charity has secured a huge win for animals exploited abroad for tourist activities. Save the Asian Elephants (STAE) have been campaigning tirelessly to improve the lives and futures of Asiatic elephants, and their most recent win has seen the introduction of a world-first law banning the advertisement of cruel animal tourist activities – the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act 2023.

The new Act, which received Royal Assent on the 18th September, gives ministers powers to ban cruel activities involving animals. Ministers will be able to use these powers to ban activities such as elephant riding, photoshoots with drugged tigers, and circuses exploiting animals from being advertised or sold to the public. Any animal-related activity that’s already unlawful in England and Northern Ireland can be included within the ban. 

If you’ve ever used a travel agent to help you book a foreign trip from the UK, you might have seen colourful brochures depicting the animals you could see, or even meet, whilst abroad. And like many others, you may have thought about how much you would like to have a close encounter with them. 

But, sadly, the animals involved in experiences such as elephant riding live a life of suffering and distress, with baby elephants being ‘broken in’ using painful torture methods so that they become subservient, eventually allowing humans to ride them. Dolphins kept in dolphinariums swim in barren tanks and are deprived of the opportunity to form the complex bonds they do in the wild. Even walking with lion experiences are very harmful as the lions can go on to be sold to be shot in canned hunts. 

This law change is therefore vital to steer, often unknowing, holiday-makers away from funding animal suffering and towards more ethical activities. We would encourage the Government to exercise the powers given by this law change, to exercise these powers to stop harm to animals right away, once it’s consulted with expert organisations like STAE and others. 

Save the Asian Elephants hope that these measures will protect vulnerable species from unnecessary exploitation and death caused from tourism, and thank everyone that has supported this campaign. 

We would like to congratulate Duncan McNair, CEO of Save the Asian Elephants on his hard work and this great animal welfare win! We wish the charity the best of luck in their work to now secure these changes throughout Wales and Scotland too.

It’s an incredible achievement for animals and sends a message animal exploitation for tourism is not acceptable. However, these activities won’t stop overnight, so there’s a role here for you too. We would encourage anyone travelling abroad to be vigilant, as sellers of animal tourism use very clever marketing strategies to make experiences seem harmless when they exist purely for profit, at the expense of many animal lives.

Instead, if you’re travelling, take the time to research eco-friendly wildlife tours that protect wildlife. You can use resources like the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries’ website to find genuine sanctuaries for the animals you want to visit.

You can also read about the difference between a genuine animal sanctuary and a ‘pseudo-sanctuary’ here: https://www.ifaw.org/journal/how-to-tell-a-real-sanctuary-from-a-pseudo-sanctuary


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