TripAdvisor refuses to remove listings which harm animals, but promises to improve record on animal welfare

15 March 2018

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The world’s biggest travel site maintains a proven increase in wild animal selfies isn’t its  responsibility, but vows to expand animal welfare policy.

In a meeting with Animals Asia, a TripAdvisor representative has refused to remove listings which harm animals from its platform, claiming such a move would go against the company’s ethos of “transparency”.

More than 30,000 people signed Animals Asia’s petition asking TripAdvisor to change its policy in a bid to avoid the site being misused by tourism facilities which harm animals.

While TripAdvisor’s Associate Director James Kay agreed that animal performance, elephant rides and wild animal selfies harmed the welfare of animals, he maintained TripAdvisor’s refusal to remove offending listings from the site.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“Wild animal selfies, elephant rides, the consumption of endangered species and animal performances are all available on TripAdvisor. Clearly they need to do more to prevent their site becoming a catalyst for animal cruelty, and while we’re obviously disappointed the company hasn’t agreed with us that all harmful listings should be removed, we are encouraged by some positive developments.

“James made it clear to us that TripAdvisor acknowledges their animal welfare policy isn’t perfect and that the company intends to make continual improvements. Our job now will be to give advice where we can, and hold them to their word.”

Among the promises by TripAdvisor was an assurance to investigate individual facilities highlighted by Animals Asia which contravene the travel site’s current policy on not selling tickets for tours which feature close contact with wild animals.

The facilities targeted by Animals Asia – including True Bali Experience, Le Mat Snake Village, and Hon Lao Monkey Island – can expect to have their ticket-selling partnership with TripAdvisor halted and/or be stripped of TripAdvisor awards such as its Certificate of Excellence.

In another positive move, TripAdvisor says they will stop selling tickets for tours which feature wild animal performances as part of a new version of their animal welfare policy.

The move will almost certainly see facilities such as Vietnam’s Can Gio Biosphere Reserve have their ticket-selling agreement revoked.

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In regards to Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, James said:

“We are looking at it, we are investigating it. If it doesn’t come down under the current policy, it almost certainly will under the new version.”

The changes are expected to be live in a “matter of weeks” providing a boost to Animals Asia’s campaign to have the monkey circus at the UNESCO-accredited reserve shut down.

During the 75-minute meeting, Animals Asia also proposed a number of simple technical solutions to help TripAdvisor police their own site and stamp out animal cruelty.

These included setting up a reporting tab on listings, providing clear warnings on facilities which contravene TripAdvisor’s current policy, and providing animal welfare information relevant to specific listings.

Animals Asia will monitor the evolution of TripAdvisor’s animal welfare policy and encourage the company to implement one or more of these suggestions to provide users with reliable information on whether particular tourism facilities are animal-friendly.