In response to BA Holidays' announcement regarding animal attractions, AZA has co-signed and supports the following statement from leading accrediting organizations across the globe.
I am writing as the CEO of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and on behalf of my colleagues and members of the zoo accreditation associations from the UK, Europe and across the globe. This community of organisations, where evidence-based animal welfare, education and conservation is at the forefront at all times, is deeply concerned by the imminent publication of the British Airways Holidays’ (BA Holidays) Animal Welfare Strategy, and its stipulation that BA Holidays will no longer book packages to animal-based destinations.
As global experts in animal welfare, we welcome your desire to take action and to condemn tourist attractions that provide sub-optimal welfare standards to animals; such as elephant rides and tiger temples. However, without the opportunity to provide feedback and comments from our sector’s expertise we believe that your Strategy may damage your company’s reputation and your intended impact on social responsibility. We urge you to work with zoo and aquarium associations before releasing your Animal Welfare Strategy to avoid this from happening and to ensure it is a robust as it can be.
Please allow me to explain our position:
It appears that your position to implement a universal ban has been informed by an animal rights perspective rather than by an evidence-based assessment of animal welfare standards. Zoo and aquarium association members prioritise animal welfare at all times. Our members work hard to deliver the best standards of care for their animals and engage in research to continuously improve welfare standards. For example, we work closely with universities for scientific and applied research on animal welfare, we have developed animal welfare assessment tools, robust independent complaint procedures, and are continuously reviewing our animal welfare practices ensuring that we adapt to new knowledge and research findings. Animal welfare is at the core of what we do, as without happy and healthy animals, we would not receive the ever-growing number of visitors in our associations’ zoos and aquariums. All zoo and aquarium association members not only adhere to legislation but go above and beyond through their own code of conduct and have strong programmes of animal welfare assessments, guidelines and policies in place. We believe therefore that there should not be a blanket ban, but a robust way of identifying the appropriate organisations for your clients to visit.
People will always visit zoos and aquariums; they are firmly embedded in British and global cultures. In fact, independent research (Morris, Hargreaves and McIntyre 2017) demonstrates that 86% of the British population (representative of 43 million people) supports wildlife attractions including zoos and aquariums. Furthermore, this research found that the British public is receptive to encouragement to change their behaviour to help the environment; something that our zoo and aquarium community are expertly positioned to do.
In the UK alone, BIAZA members engage with 32 million visitors annually. Globally, members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) provide important conservation education opportunities to more than 700 million visitors - which is about 10% of the world’s population. Zoo association members connect these millions of visitors to nature and provide inspiring experiences with the animals in their care. Our members create valuable opportunities to lead on pro-environmental behaviour change to their millions of visitors around the world.
Whilst it may have been well-intentioned as part of your broader Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, your proposed Animal Welfare Strategy will actually limit opportunities for people from all walks of life to experience these valuable connections to the natural world through our Associations’ zoos and aquariums. Ultimately, it will prevent them having an opportunity to learn about the pro-environmental actions they can take, and play a role in the conservation of species. We believe, by initiating this ban, BA Holidays will be losing out on important opportunities to engage their clients in awareness raising, education and action to prevent species extinction.
As far as we are aware, BA Holidays has not been in contact with any zoo associations or their members in the UK, Europe or globally to seek our sector’s expert advice for your Strategy, despite the fact that zoo and aquarium associations are the only professional bodies involved in the tourism sector with animal welfare at their core.
Even at this late stage, we can provide our support as we also feel strongly about the need to raise awareness and reduce the impact of visitor attractions with poor practices that negatively impact the welfare of their animals. Indeed, our desire for excellent animal welfare standards and conservation action is mutual and we would like to join you in delivering much-needed positive engagement with our often-shared audiences towards a sustainable future for all species. Please do get in touch so that we can work with you on this.
In good faith,
Dr Madelon Willemsen
In consultation with the following zoo and aquarium associations:
EAZA, AZA and WAZA
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is the professional body which is proud to represent over 120 of the leading zoos and aquariums in the UK and Ireland all of which are at the forefront of animal welfare, conservation, education and research.
The membership organization of Europe’s most progressive zoological institutions, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) comprises more than 400 zoos, aquariums and other institutions across 48 countries, collaborating for the advancement of conservation, research and education. EAZA is a significant stakeholder in the fight to protect the future of the natural world, both in Europe and across the world.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and ten other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. AZA-accredited facilities are leaders in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world.
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world. WAZA’s membership consists of more than 300 influential institutions and organisations.