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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Instagranimal: Animal Welfare and Animal Ethics Challenges of Animal-Based Tourism

von Essen, Erica; Lindsjo, Johan; Berg, Charlotte


Simple SummaryAnimals of countless species, wild as well as tame, can now entertain tourists on their holidays. The popularity, however, of animal-based tourism comes with significant risks for the welfare of these animals. Many animals are kept in small confinements, are broken down to interact obediently with tourists, or are made to perform, entertain, transport or even give their lives for human leisure. In this paper, the challenges of animal-based tourism are presented from the perspectives of interdisciplinary researchers. The challenges are discussed based on a two-day symposium with workshop sessions. We bring attention to the problem of cultural relativism and the difficulty of imposing universal standards of animal welfare. We conclude that reforms and individual travel decisions as a result of biosecurity concerns will impact animal welfare. In addition to this, we observe that technology has a dual role to play in enhancing edutainment but also potentially inviting new challenges. In the end, we declare some possibilities for compassionate animal based tourism.By animal-based tourism, a host of activities offering passive viewing or active interaction with wild, semi-wild or captive animals is included. The multibillion dollar industry is on the rise globally today, offering modes of engagement with animals that trade on increasingly embodied close encounters with non-human animals. As new modes of animal-based tourism proliferate, such as sloth selfies, visiting cat cafes, swimming with sharks and agri-tourism petting zoos, animal welfare standards risk deteriorating. In the following paper, we collate concerns over animal welfare into a discussion on the challenges facing animal-based tourism. Our synthesis is the first to consider the full spectrum of such animal-based tourism: across agri-, hunting, zoo and safari tourism, to name a few, and crossing consumptive and non-consumptive boundaries. A literature review is first provided. Findings are then presented thematically following workshops at an international interdisciplinary symposium of leading tourism, animal welfare, ethics and leisure sciences scholars together with practitioners of the industry. It discusses macrolevel drivers to animal-based tourism as an industry, the problem of cultural relativism and the role of technology in enhancing or promoting the experience. We indicate ways forward toward implementing a compassionate animal-based tourism.


animal welfare; tourism; ethics; guidelines; cultural relativism; compassionate; 3Rs

Published in

2020, Volume: 10, number: 10, article number: 1830
Publisher: MDPI