The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act bans the advertising and sale of specific unethical activities contrary to animal welfare

Tiger temple
Tiger Temple. Now closed but a notorious example of animal abuse to entertain tourists. Image in the public domain.
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Like any decent animal advocate, I am delighted to briefly talk about a new British act of Parliament, the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act. It’s a bit of a mouthful but it’s important.

Essentially, it stops companies and other businesses in Britain advertising and selling “specific unethical activities abroad where animals are kept in captivity or confinement, subjected to cruel and brutal training methods, forced to take selfies or are ridden, drugged and declawed”. The words come from the UK government website. I quote them for accuracy.

This, then, is legislation to prevent unethical businesses in the UK advertising tourist attractions abroad in which animals are cruelly treated. Yes, it’s true but remarkable that in this day and age there are many businesses abroad which rely on animal cruelty to entertain tourists! When you think about it it’s very much a failure in humankind’s relationship with animals.

The UK government mentions a study by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. It was published in 2015. It concluded, also remarkably, that up to 550,000 animals worldwide suffer from tourist entertainment.

You may have heard about some of them. These tourist attractions rely upon brutal training methods to break the animals so that they perform for the tourists. Such as Asian elephants being broken to make them safe when they perform unnatural activities before onlooking tourists such as playing football, painting, excessive bathing and providing tourist rides.

Lord Benyon, the Animal Welfare Minister said:

We know that some foreign tourist attractions often subject majestic animals like elephants to cruel and brutal training methods. [This act] is an important step in our commitment to ensure high animal welfare standards both here in this country and abroad, and I encourage holidaymakers to do their research so they can make informed choices that do not encourage poor animal welfare practices.

An interesting point there, for me, is that this legislation in the UK should hopefully have an impact on the businesses abroad. It should be detrimental to those businesses. It should reduce their income. It may make them think twice about what they are doing. Although I doubt this will happen. Although what I don’t doubt is that this legislation is meant to have an impact upon these overseas, unethical businesses.

Angela Richardson, Conservative MP for Guildford, said:

I am thrilled that the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act has received Royal assent this week. This legislation is a world first and will work towards greater protection of vulnerable animals in low welfare settings from being exploited as tourist experiences.”

Duncan McNair, chief executive officer Save The Asian Elephants, said:

Save The Asian Elephants and the millions who have supported our campaign hope the passing into law of the landmark Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act will prove a momentous day for animals everywhere. The measures, resolutely implemented and enforced, will help protect endangered and vulnerable species across the world from extreme exploitation, harm and death in tourism. They will also save many lives of humans too, turned on by maddened elephants and other creatures provoked by torture. Britain can take pride in this world-first law and we must encourage the world to follow suit whilst time remains for so many believe good species.”

The act applies across to England and Northern Ireland. It is a piece of secondary legislation. This means that it was enacted by executive order rather than going to Parliament and being debated.

The Association of British Travel Agents has published guidelines which list activities which are classified as unacceptable. As I understand it, the act states this about these activities:

An animal is kept in conditions, or is subject to treatment, within this subsection if keeping the animal in the conditions, or subjecting it to the treatment, in the appropriate national authority’s part of the United Kingdom would constitute an offence under the appropriate national legislation.

Recently I’ve criticised the British government for not doing enough about animal welfare since Boris Johnson and his wife left government. Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, is an animal advocate and she was behind a lot of new animal welfare legislation which is all fizzled out.

This is a step in the right direction for me. The UK government says that this legislation builds on “existing world-leading animal welfare standards”. The government published the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021. Since then, they brought in new laws to “recognise animals’ sentience, introduce tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences, brought forward a ban on glue traps, and introduced tougher penalties for hare coursing.”

The World Animal Protection website gives us a clue as to how bad this form of tourist entertainment is. They say that “thousands of animals are being ripped from the wild or bred in captivity to entertain tourists.”

They also say that tigers are bred into a lifetime of exploitation. They are chained up and sometimes drugged. They become props to be petted and to act as a backdrop for a selfie photograph.

I’ve mentioned elephants above. Dolphins are kept in small barren tanks and made to entertain tourists in performing circus tricks et cetera.

I would like to expand on the tigers. Amazing Thailand a website promoting Thailand say that there are six things you should not doing Thailand. They were doing their bit to prevent tourists supporting abuse of tigers before this legislation came into force.

Tiger Temple
Tiger Temple tigers

They asked tourist not to take tiger selfies. They refer to that notorious Tiger Temple operation run by Buddhist monks. Operations took place in June 2016 to remove tigers from the property as the business was closed down as I understand it (at last because of delayed government intervention). They found 40 dead cubs in a freezer! It was a very popular tourist attraction. Tourists liked to take selfies with the drugged tigers. And of course, there were the usual irresponsible breeding practices and illegal animal trade surrounding this horrendous business. Ironically Buddhists are meant to treat animals well.

Tourists should never visit animal attraction businesses to take selfies of wild animals because they’re bound to be examples of animal abuse. Tourists should never support animal abuse. This legislation helps in that regard.

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