PHOTO: Thomas Cook is dropping Ocean World in the Dominican Republic as well as numerous other animal interaction providers. (Photo via Flickr/Keirn OConnor)
The United Kingdom’s second-largest travel provider, Thomas Cook is taking a stronger stance against animal cruelty as its drops several animal interaction tours due to unsafe or even harmful conditions.
The move comes after Thomas Cook commissioned an independent report on its animal attractions, which found a number of animals living under stressful conditions. The audit, commissioned in January and conducted by animal welfare specialists Global Spirit, found that 16 of the 25 utilized by Thomas Cook did not meet minimum safety standards as set out by the ABTA, Britain’s largest travel association, under its “Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism” policy.
In December Thomas Cook launched a new animal welfare policy that required all attractions and outings sold by Thomas Cook to be in “full compliance with the ABTA Global Guidance.”
And now the agency is publicly dropping some of its vendors.
According to an article in The Telegraph, the company is cutting ties with dolphin programs at Ocean World in the Dominican Republic and Sealanya in Turkey, as well as elephant rides at Baan Chang tours in Thailand. It will also be halting other programs in China and Cuba.
The move is being welcomed by animal welfare groups.
"We are delighted Thomas Cook appears to be taking this issue seriously,” said the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group in a statement. “Many other travel companies are not, and many facilities continue to flout the Abta animal welfare guidelines."
Thomas Cook says it still plans to keep some of its animal programs.
“We know that for many people, animals in captivity of any form is unacceptable,” said Peter Fankhauser, Group Chief Executive for Thomas Cook in a blog post on the Thomas Cook site. “However, it is a sad truth that many captive animals cannot be safely returned to the wild. Tourism has a big role to play in raising standards for those animals during the transition to ending the practice of capturing animals for entertainment, and ending practices that are known to harm animals.