Thomas Cook keep referring to the ABTA guidelines and their much heralded ʻnew animal welfare policy’. A statement from the CEO was issued in response to growing customer concerns regarding the wellbeing of wild animals being utilised in entertainment businesses, particularly cetaceans in captivity.
Upon reading the ABTA ʻBest Practiceʼ booklet on handling cetaceans in captivity, we found that the guidelines offer little protection for the animals being held captive and have been well structured to suit the interests of the marine animal captivity industry as opposed to the welfare of the animals being held captive.
Upon further inspection of the guidelines some serious issues (listed below) have been flagged up.
- The guidelines fail to acknowledge or address to any depth, the true levels that animals are currently suffering in captivity.
- The guidelines overlook or diminish strong scientific evidence which may negatively criticize current dolphinaria practices.
- The guidelines offer no real tangible changes to the welfare of cetacea in captivity in the long term.
- The standards are based on minimum levels of welfare acceptable
- The terminology is vague and unspecific, which enables companies to fit the standards to suit their own practices.
- The guidelines use industry terminology which serves to validate and sugarcoat the true damage caused by the practices ABTA guidelines endorse.
Thomas Cook’s new policy claims they will drop those attractions that donʼt meet the minimum requirements, this is a smokescreen however, as in the small print they state they will work with substandard attractions to aid these facilities to meet the minimum requirements and maintain the business relationship. This new policy is a greenwash.
Due to the issues raised above, we believe the ABTA guidelines to be
1) Not fit for purpose.
2) Unfairly biased in favour of maintaining a lucrative industry as opposed to making true improvements to the welfare of wild animals held captive for their lifetimes.