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Legislation to clamp down on cruel animal experiences abroad Published Date: 22/09/2023

The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act passed into law yesterday (18 September), confirming the UK’s position as a world leader in animal welfare standards both at home and abroad.

The legislation – which was introduced by Angela Richardson MP and Lord Black of Brentwood, supported by the government - allows the government to bring forward a ban on the advertising and sale of specific unethical activities abroad where animals are kept in captivity or confinement, subjected to cruel and brutal training methods, forced to take selfies or are ridden, drugged and de-clawed.

The independent evidence on these kind of experiences shows that animals used in the tourist trade are often subject to harsh treatment to ensure their compliance in activities. A study by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit published in 2015 concluded that up to 550,000 animals worldwide suffered for tourist entertainment.

Brutal training methods are often used to ‘break in’ Asian elephants to make them safe to be near tourists and partake in unnatural activities like playing football, painting, tourist rides and excessive bathing.

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Benyon said:

We know that some foreign tourist attractions often subject majestic animals like elephants to cruel and brutal training methods.

The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act is an important step in our commitment to ensure high animal welfare standards both here in this country and abroad, and I encourage holidaymakers to do their research so they can make informed choices that do not encourage poor animal welfare practices.

Conservative MP for Guildford Angela Richardson said:

I am thrilled that the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Act has received Royal Assent this week.

This legislation is a world first and will work towards greater protection of vulnerable animals in low welfare settings from being exploited as tourist experiences.

Duncan McNair, CEO Save The Asian Elephants, said:

“Save The Asian Elephants and the millions who have supported our campaign hope the passing into law of the landmark Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act will prove a momentous day for animals everywhere. The measures, resolutely implemented and enforced, will help protect endangered and vulnerable species across the world from extreme exploitation, harm and death in tourism. They will also save many lives of humans too, turned on by maddened elephants and other creatures provoked by torture.

Save The Asian Elephants is hugely appreciative of all who have supported our campaign for these changes, of our government, our Parliament across the party divide, the charity sector and the public. All must now set our hand to starting the transition from brutal and dangerous practices to ethical sanctuaries and wildlife reserves.

Britain can take pride in this world-first law and we must encourage the world to follow suit whilst time remains for so many beleaguered species.

The Act – applicable in England and Northern Ireland – means the government, through secondary legislation, can ban the advertising and offering for sale of these cruel experiences and protect these special creatures from unnecessary harm.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) already has published guidelines and a list of activities which they classify as unacceptable. Reputable and responsible tour operators should not be offering activities that support poor animal welfare.

This new legislation is part of a wider Government effort to build on our existing world-leading animal welfare standards. Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021 we have brought in new laws to recognise animals sentience, introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences, brought forward a ban on glue traps, and introduced tougher penalties for hare coursing.