Unethical use of wildlife in tourism: what's the problem, who is responsible, and what can be done?
Moorhouse T., D'Cruze NC., Macdonald DW.
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Wildlife tourism is a huge global market, the revenue from which can promote local livelihoods and tourist education, enact conservation, and improve animal welfare. Such benefits arise if wildlife tourist attractions (WTAs) prioritise ethical deliverables above financial profit, but recent work has shown that the majority of WTAs have substantial negative animal welfare and conservation impacts. In the absence of global regulatory authorities, tourist revenue has become the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes acceptable use of animals in WTAs. Tourists, however, are not adequate assessors of WTAs’ animal welfare and conservation impacts: they lack the specialist knowledge required and are subject to a number of psychological biases that obscure the ethical dimensions of decisions to attend particular WTAs. This inadequacy is evidenced, and compounded, by overwhelmingly positive reviews on TripAdvisor (the industry-leading review site), even for WTAs with objectively poor ethical standards. Our suggested solution is to empower tourists by presenting unequivocal assessments of WTAs' animal welfare and conservation impacts, hosted in the fora that tourists already use to make their travel decisions. We would thereby promote a subjective norm that tourists should consider and limit their individual negative impacts when choosing which WTAs to visit.