A commitment to responsible tourism: EF Education First and World Animal Protection
For 70 years World Animal Protection has worked to create a better world for animals, improving the relationship that people have with wildlife and the approach we all take when we choose to engage with animals.
From rescuing 10,000 animals from floodwaters in Suriname in 1964, to ending bear dancing across India in 2012, to becoming the only animal welfare organization to regularly address the United Nations, World Animal Protection has made an impact in nearly every part of the globe.
So, when we wanted to increase our existing global animal welfare efforts at EF Education First, we knew we could count on World Animal Protection to collaborate with.
“We researched many organizations,” said Kerryann, Vice President of EF Educational Tours. “When we met with World Animal Protection, we found there were a lot of synergies between our organizations. Like EF they have been operating for over 50 years and have a worldwide network of offices in many of the same places that we do. In addition, they believe change comes through education, which ties in nicely with our mission of opening the world through education.”
Kerryann talking to EF staff in Boston about World Animal Protection
In December of 2018, EF became the first international education company to collaborate with World Animal Protection to ensure animal welfare best practices in all of our programs and avoid attractions that don’t meet animal welfare standards.
Since then, EF has taken a stance and stopped offering activities like horse carriage rides, shows that involve animals and excursions that involve unnatural interactions with wild animals (such as riding, feeding or swimming). We also plan to eliminate trips to aquariums by 2021.
“You guys embraced animal welfare as a company,” said Julie, World Animal Protection’s Wildlife Campaign Manager.
Still, the demand for animal-related tourism continues.
“We’ve focused on what we can add to our experiences and what kind of educational opportunities we can provide,” Kerryann said. “We’re bringing ethical sanctuaries onboard and partnering with NGO’s who can bring a different lens to animal welfare and conservation around the world.”
New opportunities now exist for customers, like tours in Thailand where students complete service-learning projects at elephant sanctuaries handpicked by World Animal Protection and EF Educational Tours.
World Animal Protection is also doing their part to educate EF staff about animal welfare best practices.
Over the past few months representatives from World Animal Protection have conducted refresher trainings for staff in our US and China offices as a follow up to the worldwide trainings that were hosted for EF staff when the collaboration was announced. Trainings focused on the importance of animal welfare, common misconceptions, simple ways individuals can make an impact on global animal welfare and the guidelines that EF has put in place for every program.
During the recent trainings, Julie highlighted that doing your research before you travel and that leaving reviews, positive or negative, of excursions featuring wildlife is one of the easiest ways to influence how people travel.
“Because of social media, kids know a lot more than adults do nowadays,” said Alesia, World Animal Protection’s U.S. Executive Director. “Get the knowledge to evaluate what you see, because you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes.”
Travel-sized excursion checklists developed by World Animal Protection were also given to EF staff along with an outline on how to identify if attractions adhere to animal welfare guidelines.
“The enthusiasm from staff has been awesome and it’s really exciting that we have taken such a stance,” Kerryann said.
As EF continues to collaborate with World Animal Protection, we look forward to developing educational initiatives, preparing travelers on best practices before they go on tour, and being a resource to help answer any questions along the way.
“When in doubt,” Julie said, “If you can ride, hug or have a selfie with a wild animal, don’t go!”