Born Free calls for action on animal abuse in tourism

UK Government needs to act urgently to bring landmark legislation into effect.

A man standing in a pool with a dolphin which is emerging upright from the water. The man is holding onto the dolphin's fins.

Over the 40 years since its inception, Born Free has been fighting for greater protection for wild animals against their use and abuse in the tourism industry.

After many years of lobbying and repeated promises from Government, the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Act received Royal Assent and passed into law in September 2023.

The Act, which was tabled as a Private Members Bill by Guildford MP Angela Richardson after the Government failed to introduce its own Bill, makes it illegal in England and Northern Ireland to advertise or sell identified activities involving animals abroad.

However, as things stand, the Government has not yet begun the process of developing the Activity Regulations required to identify the activities that will be proscribed, which means the Act is currently toothless.

Born Free and our partners have written to the Secretary of State imploring him to prioritise this issue as a matter of urgency.

To be included in the Regulations, activities that take place overseas and are currently advertised to tourists here would need to contravene the Animal Welfare Act (or the equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland) if they were to take place in the UK.

Working with our partner organisations in the UK and beyond, Born Free has identified a number of key activities that we think should be included in the Regulations. Among these are marine park shows and ‘swim-with’ activities involving whales or dolphins, riding elephants, ‘walking with’ big cats, and circus-type performances involving primates, bears, big cats and others.

We have shared these suggestions with the Secretary of State and Government officials, in the hope that this will help kick-start the process.

Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones said: “The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act carries overwhelming public and cross-party support. Its effective implementation would help to cement the standing of the UK as a leading voice for animal protection on the international stage and provide an example for other nations to follow. It is vital that this opportunity to protect vulnerable animals, and prevent injuries and deaths among both animals and people resulting from unscrupulous tourism attractions, is not missed.”

Two men with blurred faces posing with macaques on chains

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Find out more about Born Free’s campaign to end the exploitation of animals used in tourism as photo props

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