Hear no evil, see no evil – does ‘turning a blind eye’ to cruelty equate to responsible tourism?
On eve of World Responsible Tourism Day, Spanish Tourist Board has ‘no comment’ on fire-bull fiesta, which takes place next week
On the eve of World Responsible Tourism Day (7th November), a wildlife charity is asking whether it is ‘responsible’ for tourist boards and travel companies to turn a blind eye to animal cruelty.
Care for the Wild, which has launched the www.RIGHT-tourism.org website to give tourists information on animal-based tourist attractions, says that when it comes to cruelty, tourist boards need to nail their colours to the wall.
Philip Mansbridge, Care for the Wild Chief Executive, said: “A lot of countries have tourist attractions that now look unsavoury at best, or downright cruel at worst. RIGHT-tourism wants to see the operators that promote these attractions offer tourists better information so people can make up their own mind as to whether they should go.”
To test the theory, a Care for the Wild staff member contacted the Spanish Tourist Board in London, posing as a tourist, to enquire about the now infamous fire-bull fiestas, during which bulls have flaming torches or fireworks tied to their horns.
We enquired about the Toro de Júbilo (or toro embolado) which takes place on 12/13th November in Soria, Castilla y León. A similar fiesta, which takes place in San Mateo in September, is advertised on the Spanish Tourist Office website.
“It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, these fire bull fiestas are cruel, whether they are traditional or not,” said Philip. “But the Spanish Tourist Office refused to give us information as to whether these fiestas were cruel or suitable for children.
“Quite frankly, that’s not good enough. Maybe they are embarrassed or ashamed of these fiestas, or perhaps the staff aren’t allowed to give opinions. But if I was a member of the public who unwittingly took his family to see a so-called ‘cultural’ event only to see a live bull burned, blinded and tormented, I’d be pretty angry at the tourist operator.
“It’s not acceptable to turn a blind eye to events or attractions where animals are used or abused. Sure, defend them if you feel criticism is unjust. But give tourists enough information to make up their own mind. That’s what RIGHT-tourism is about, and we want tourist boards and operators to come with us – because that’s what the customer wants.”
As part of this exercise, we also contacted the South Africa tourist board about ‘walking with lions’ tours – some of which are reputedly linked to ‘canned’ hunting, and Nepal about the Gadhimai religious festival during which 250,000 animals are slaughtered over two days. After a week, we haven’t had a response from either.
Care for the Wild is a charity based in Sussex dedicated to the protection of wildlife in the UK and abroad. For more information see www.careforthewild.com.