17 Dec

ABTA launches second edition of its Animal Welfare Guidelines

ABTA – The Travel Association, is launching the second edition of its Animal Welfare Guidelines after a comprehensive stakeholder review. The new updates include revised basic welfare requirements and unacceptable behaviours whilst making them simpler and easier to understand.

In ABTA’s latest Holiday Habits1 research two-thirds (66%) of people said that they have concerns about the wider impacts of tourism and how animals are treated. Viewing or interacting with animals is popular with holidaymakers as well as an important attraction for local communities. These need to be managed in the right way to safeguard the welfare of animals.

ABTA’s first edition of its Animal Welfare Guidelines launched in 2013, with the aim of providing guidance for ABTA Member companies and their suppliers throughout the world and helping to raise standards. The revisions to these have been developed through ABTA’s Animal Welfare Working Group and a multi-stakeholder consultation process involving industry experts, scientists, zoologist organisations, associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from around the world, as part of ABTA’s commitment to raising standards in animal welfare and its role to provide advice to Members.

Building on the extended Five Domains Model of animal welfare, the updated manuals include Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, Animals in Captive Environments, Elephants in Captive Environments, Wildlife Viewing, Working Animals and Unacceptable Practices. The Dolphins in Captive Environments manual is under review and there will be further consultation on the subject, taking into account the latest ongoing developments and research.

In addition to the revised basic welfare requirements, the updates in the guidelines replace previous categorisations with revised unacceptable practices that include tourist contact or feeding of great apes, bears, crocodiles or alligators, elephants without a barrier, orca, sloths as well as contact, feeding and walking with wild cats. New guidance sections on ‘Food and animal welfare’, ‘Management of stray animals’ and ‘Developing an animal welfare approach’ have also been added.

ABTA encourages travel companies to either not offer, or move away from, unacceptable practices. ABTA is very aware that no longer selling an attraction doesn’t mean animal welfare issues go away. Working with suppliers to transition away from unacceptable practices can take time.   

Clare Jenkinson, ABTA’s Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager, said:

“ABTA Members have led the way on animal welfare by implementing ABTA’s guidelines for a number of years, and others in the industry from around the world use ABTA’s guidelines as the basis for their animal welfare policies.  

“Naturally, with the emergence of new evidence, thinking evolves on what constitutes a basic requirement or an unacceptable practice. Thanks to the valued input from many expert stakeholders, the revised guidelines will mean that travel companies can implement animal welfare approaches that reflect the latest evidence, working in partnership with suppliers to raise standards.” 

Julie Middelkoop, Campaign Lead for World Animal Protection, said:

“We are delighted that ABTA has heard the consortium of animal protection NGOs working together on this issue. This has resulted in updated animal welfare guidelines that reflect the latest evidence with more harmful animal related tourist activities now labelled unacceptable. Although still voluntary, this and the improved clarity of the guidelines will ensure greater uptake by travel companies.

“The clear advice that it is unacceptable to use elephants for rides, shows, bathing or any other form of tourist contact without a barrier is a real breakthrough. We are equally thrilled to see that other harmful tourist experiences such as selfies with sloths in the Amazon, feeding orangutans and walking with lions in southern Africa have the same listing.  

“World Animal Protection, World Cetacean Alliance, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Humane Society International and Born Free Foundation are committed to continue working with ABTA to ensure that their guidelines around captive whales and dolphins are updated to reflect the latest science, ethics and public attitudes around their captivity.”

The guidelines are available to ABTA Members and their suppliers on the Member Zone of abta.com. For Partners and non-Members the guidelines are available to purchase via the ABTA shop at www.abta.com

ABTA is hosting a seminar on Animal Welfare in Tourism on 12 March 2020 in central London, where the guides will be discussed further. For more information visit abta.com/abtaevents or email events@abta.co.uk 


For further information, contact:


020 3117 0596


Out of Hours: contact the duty press officer 020 3693 0183

Web: www.abta.com

Twitter: @ABTAtravel


Notes to editors

1 The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,043 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2019. Fieldwork was conducted in July 2019. ABTA’s full Holiday Habits Report is available to download from abta.com/holidayhabits2019.

ABTA has been working on animal welfare since the early 2000s, the first edition of its guidelines was launched in 2013.

ABTA Animal Welfare guidelines and its supporting guidance manuals build upon the principles of the extended Five Domains Model (developed by Mellor & Beausoleil (2015), originally based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s Five Freedoms (FAWC 1979)) and the Welfare Quality® criteria. The extended Five Domains is the most contemporary and well-accepted framework for measuring animal welfare. The main improvement from the Five Freedoms, on which it was based, is the consideration of positive welfare as well as negative, since minimising negative welfare states does not automatically guarantee positive ones.


Basic Welfare Requirements


1. Basic welfare requirements for animals managed and/or dependent upon human beings



Basic welfare requirements for animals managed and/or dependent upon human beings







1. All animals have, unrestricted daily access to adequate and clean drinking water in line with their species-specific needs.

2. All animals are provided access to food that is adequate in quality, amount and variety for

the species, the captive environment and the individual animals’ needs. Feeding routines

should be species-specific, mentally stimulating and encourage natural behaviours.






3. In captivity, enclosures are environmentally complex, including natural substrate, structures, shelter and environmental enrichment, in order to encourage a normal and diverse behavioural repertoire. All animals should be able to access shelter and a climatic environment suitable for their species-specific needs seek shelter from extreme weather conditions and seek privacy from view.

4. In captivity, enclosures are clean, hygienic, free of excessive artificial noise such as visitor or speaker noise, and well maintained, for example, devoid of excessive faeces, urine or rotting food, litter, not waterlogged, not infested with vermin etc.


Physical Health



5. The facility has access to a vet, either employed or externally contracted, who is knowledgeable and experienced in the health and welfare of the relevant animals.

6. There is a policy not to surgically modify the skin, tissues, teeth or bone structure of animals, and not to sedate animals, unless it is for the purpose of genuine medical treatment or improved welfare, and always under the guidance of an appropriately trained vet.

7. Complete, accurate animal stocklists, veterinary records and any appropriate licences or permits should be up-to-date and available for inspection. The required paperwork should be in place for all which have been acquired from the wild.




8. In captivity, enclosures (including pools) or methods used to contain the animals for temporary periods allow all the animals to move and exercise freely, and to maintain sufficient distance from other animals in case of conflict.

9. Depending on their species-specific and seasonal needs, animals should have the opportunity to
interact regularly with other members of their species. Animals should not be prematurely separated
from their young.

10. Any training of animals should never involve punishment or food deprivation.



2. Basic welfare requirements for businesses with working animals


  1. Tethering or hobbling during an animal’s nonworking period should be for a limited time only (see species-specific guidance in Section 5 tables of Working Animals manual). When tethered, the animals should be able to walk, lie down and stand up without putting tension on the tether, and reach basic resources like food, water and shade. If hobbles are used, they should join the two front legs, the straps should be lined and regularly greased, be adjustable and have a quick-release mechanism. All tethered or hobbled animals require a high degree of supervision.


  1. Equipment should fit, be comfortable, not cause distress or injury, and be in working order (for instance, tyres properly inflated on a working cart). It should be cleaned and dried after use. Equipment should be removed during rest periods and when the animal is eating or drinking.


  1. Effective and regular shelter should be provided for working animals both in resting and working environments to avoid heat or cold stress.


  1. Young, pregnant, nursing, injured, ill, distressed or elderly animals should not be ridden, or be required to carry/pull loads. Equids (for example, horses, mules, donkeys and zebra hoofed mammals) should not be worked before they are three years old; camels should not be ridden before four years. Weaning should not be conducted for horses, donkeys and mules before six months and for camels should not be conducted before four months. In all cases, it is preferable for weaning to occur naturally.


  1. Animals should train and work within their physical capabilities. Loads should be appropriate for the animal’s size, and ability, body condition and fitness level (for example, not more than one person on an equine or camel, but equally, a 150kg person on a 150kg donkey is not acceptable), work should not be in the hottest part of the day and animals should have regular rest periods each day of at least an hour between working periods.


Practices considered unacceptable

ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines lists activities have been classified as unacceptable, as defined by evidence supplied by experts:

  1. Unacceptable practices involving animals in captive attractions
  • Animal breeding or commercial trade in sanctuaries and orphanages
  • Any tourist holding of, or photo opportunity with, wild animals where the animal does not have the choice of terminating the interaction or moving away
  • Performances or tourist interactions involving wild animals where training involves punishment or food deprivation, causes the animal fear, injury or distress, or the tasks are not based on normal behaviour
  • Tourist contact or feeding elephants without a barrier
  • Elephant shows or performances for tourists
  • Tourist contact, feeding of and “walking with” wild cats
  • Tourist contact or feeding of crocodiles or alligators
  • Tourist contact or feeding of great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, bonobos)
  • Tourist contact or feeding of bears
  • Tourist contact or feeding of sloths
  • The feeding of animals with live vertebrate prey
  • Canned hunting
  • Ostrich riding (observing or participating)
  • Unlicensed zoos
  • Euthanasia, unless carried out by a trained professional because welfare needs cannot be met, or because the animal cannot be released into the wild
  • Acquisition of any CITES Appendix I, II or III listed species except for conservation or rescue/rehabilitation purposes


The manual for cetaceans (aquatic mammals, such as whales, dolphins, porpoises) is still under review, but tourist contact or feeding of orca, and unsupervised tourist feeding of cetaceans are unacceptable.


  1. Unacceptable practices involving animals in cultural events and activities


  • Animals used for begging (for example, dancing bears, snake charming, primates).
  • Bear pits
  • Tiger farms.
  • Any animal fighting, whether against humans or other animals.
  • Bull running.
  • Rodeo events that include calf-roping, teamroping, steer wrestling, bareback horse/bull riding  using flank straps, wild-cow milking, wild horse racing or horse/steer-tripping.
  • Ritual animal slaughter as part of the tourism experience.


  1. Unacceptable practices involving free-roaming wild animals
  • Unregulated animal and plant collection from the wild
  • Human-initiated contact with and feeding of animals in the wild
  • Trade and sale of endangered wildlife products
  • Trophy hunting

About ABTA

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 65 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.

The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.

ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.