Holiday giant Thomas Cook has drawn up a new animal welfare policy.
The move by the travel operator, based in Lynch Wood, Peterborough, comes after it commissioned animal welfare specialists Global Spirit to audit a cross section of the attractions it sells.
I was disappointed, not only with the lack of engagement from a number of suppliers, but also the findings of the audit.Peter Fankhauser, chief executive
The attractions were audited against the standards set by the Abta Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism drawn up three years ago.
The company currently sells about 500 animal attractions across all its businesses, ranging from small-scale zoos to large amusement parks featuring animal shows.
Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “Frankly, I was disappointed, not only with the lack of engagement from a number of suppliers, but also the findings of the audit.
“Developed in partnership with Global Spirit and the international wildlife charity The Born Free Foundation, our new policy will require all animal attractions and outings sold by Thomas Cook to evidence full compliance with the ABTA Global Guidance.
“Put simply, if an attraction is found not to be fully compliant with the ABTA Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, Thomas Cook won’t sell it.
He added: “I am proud that Thomas Cook is taking the lead as the first travel business to enforce the ABTA Global Guidance.
“We have listened to our customers, and we’re committed to conducting our business in a way that is consistent with our customers’ expectations of us.”
Thomas Cook has been making wholesale changes to its animal excursion programme since the launch of the ABTA guidance.
Changes include the removal of all elephant riding and elephant shows from its programme in 2015.
However, Thomas Cook says its concerns about the standards of welfare in some of the attractions, prompted it to launch its independent audit a year ago.
The evidence gathered from that audit has given Thomas Cook a clear basis from which to act.
Mr Fankhauser said: “Just as customers’ expectations of holidays have changed from those early days, so have their expectations of the treatment of animals.
“We know that the animal attractions we sell are an important part of the experience customers enjoy on holiday.
“But I also want to ensure that, in providing those attractions, we are living up to our promise to put our customers’ interests at the heart of all that we do.
“That’s why Thomas Cook is today launching a new animal welfare policy – one that takes a much stronger approach to ensuring the welfare of animals in the attractions we sell and is, I believe, consistent with our customer promises of quality, service and reliability.
He added: “To be truly successful, this needs to become an industry issue.
“We are committed to raising the profile of this issue and sharing the audits we do, working directly with ABTA to enforce these guidelines, but also directly with our peers.
“Only by coming together will we improve standards at all animal attractions.”