Row Breaks Out As Travel Writers Convention Features

Row Breaks Out as Travel Writers Convention Features ‘Swimming with Dolphin’ Activities

Travel writers and bloggers are refusing to attend a trade convention in Mexico, because the organisers have arranged activities which many believe involve animal cruelty or exploitation.

The TBEX convention, being held in Cancun in September, is offering members the chance to take part in activities, many of which involve swimming with, training or being pulled by dolphins.

On its website, TBEX  describes itself as ‘the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals.’ However, many of their members have taken to the TBEX website, and their own blogs, to complain about the planned activities.

Michael Huxley, of Bemused Backpacker.com, said:

“As professional travel writers and bloggers who have influence in the travel and gap year industry, we have a responsibility to hold ourselves and our profession up to a higher standard when it comes to wildlife tourism by not supporting any activity, excursion or organisation that exploits or harms animals for tourist pleasure.

“Any tour operator or travel industry leader has the same responsibility to take a moral stand on this issue to raise awareness and avoid exploitative and unethical practices, and I cannot in good conscience support any industry professional who does not.

“TBEX claims it represents the profession of travel writers and bloggers and claims it is the future of travel writing. By tacitly supporting tour operators that engage in wildlife exploitation and abuse they no longer represent me as a travel writer, a travel blogger or even as an independent traveller and backpacker.”

Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild International, which runs the RIGHT-tourism campaign for animal-friendly tourism, said: “It’s perhaps a positive sign that this discussion is even taking place – not many years ago, people wouldn’t have thought twice about going on one of these activities. But now, many are more aware that holding intelligent, social animals like dolphins captive is inherently cruel.

“Through our RIGHT-tourism campaign, we have been told by tour operators that all issues like this should be a matter of free choice. They, like TBEX, say it should be up to the tourist to decide if they want to take part in an activity, it shouldn’t be the tour operator’s responsibility to ban them. There is truth in that.

“But on the other hand, many people take part in these activities without knowing the truth about them – we can’t count the number of people who have come to us and said that they have been somewhere, like a bull fight, or the Tiger Temple in Thailand, and said ‘they wish they’d known’.

“In the old days – and not so ‘old’ in many countries – it was legal to go to bear baiting or dog fighting. There would have been a period when people were campaigning against those things, while others claimed it was people’s free choice to go if they wanted to. I believe that’s where we are now with activities like dolphin shows and elephant treks. With luck, their time is nearly up.”

On its website, TBEX defends offering the activities by saying:  “We are not trying to defend these programs or promote them. We included them because local businesses offered them. We think our audience is/should be sophisticated enough to make the decision of taking one of these tours and then writing objectively about their experience for themselves.”

Travel blogger Diana Edelman, of dtravelsround.com, responds: “By simply saying TBEX chooses not to get involved makes it seem as if this isn’t an important enough or sexy enough topic, or it will likely piss off sponsors who are providing said attractions. Actions like this simply exacerbate problems. Why can’t TBEX be a thought leader and come out and encourage participants to respect the world in which they travel?”

One travel blogger has set up a petition opposing the activities. Also opposing the activities is Spanish animal welfare organisation FAADA.

For more information on how to be an animal-friendly tourist in any country in the world, go to www.RIGHT-tourism.org.

Links:

TBEX Cancun website

TBEX activity page

Example of activities being offered by TBEX

TBEX statement on the controversy

For more stories on dolphins, SeaWorld, zoos, Mexico or the USA, just use the tag cloud or search box. Read the full reports on watching wildlife in Mexico or the USA by using the Country Search on the main RIGHT-tourism website