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Animal Welfare

At Thomas Cook we care deeply about the welfare of animals, not only those that feature in tourist attractions but also those that are impacted upon by tourism.

The "Five Freedoms"

It is now recognised and understood that all vertebrate animals can experience pain, suffering and distress (source: EU Amsterdam Treaty 1997) and that they all have specific inherent needs, regardless of their circumstances, that ensure their well-being and survival.

As a minimum all animals need:

1. Food and water
2. A suitable living environment
3. Good health
4. An opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours
5. Protection from fear and distress

These are commonly known as the “Five Freedoms”.

To this end, we have been working closely with the Federation of Tour Operators, other industry partners, NGOs and various experts for some time to look at the issues of animal welfare in the destinations we send customers to. This work has resulted in a set of guidelines being put together for suppliers of excursions involving animals and an accompanying checklist which will allow tour operators to assess the supplier. We hope that this work will enable us to work closely with providers of excursions to ensure animals are protected and well looked after.

We have also been working with a number of organisations to help promote the conservation of affected wild animals and to develop ways to protect the welfare of animals in tourist attractions. We have been working with:

- the Travel Foundation to develop and implement a training programme for our overseas staff to help raise awareness of the importance of turtle conservation.
- the Born Free Foundation preventing captive animal suffering and neglect and protecting wild animals in the wild

Born Free Foundation

The Born Free Foundation is an international wildlife charity that helps animals in need around the world through animal rescues, anti-poaching strategies, support for animal sanctuaries, encouraging higher standards, endangered species conservation, education and public awareness.

Stopping the exploitation of wild animals in captivity is also a priority, and through their initiative Travellers Animal Alert, Born Free investigates, exposes and seeks to resolve cases of captive animal suffering and neglect. Born Free’s high-profile and dynamic campaigns take effective action, change public attitudes, inform and persuade decision-makers, and get results time and again.

Thomas Cook seeks to phase out bad practice wherever possible, and supports the Travellers Animal Alert initiative by the Born Free Foundation, where you can report animal suffering, neglect and cruelty. Born Free's dedicated team addresses your concerns and works to prevent animal suffering. Make your reports here.

The Born Free Foundation works closely with local rural communities that live alongside wildlife to help encourage greater tolerance and understanding, while at the same time, delivering real benefits to disadvantaged people in developing countries. Together they find compassionate solutions so people and wildlife can live together without conflict.

Take Action

We encourage all of our customers to report any instances of animal neglect and cruelty that they may encounter when on holiday. Thankfully such incidents are very rare, but if witnessed you may like to know that there is something practical you can do to help.

It is important that you let us know of any such incidences and the information you send about your experience must include all the necessary facts. Describing cages as "small" and animal conditions as "terrible" will not provide enough information to give us a clear picture of what the issues are.

Below is a list of the kind of information we need:

Take a photographic record, either stills or film. This kind of evidence is so useful!

Collect as much information as you can:
- Name of the establishment or attraction, and its location.
- Which animals are involved? How many? Describe their condition.
- What does the 'entertainment' consist of? Is direct contact involved?
- Who are the people or company behind the issue?
- Is the event or establishment advertised or promoted?
- Who is involved in this promotion? (e.g. hotels, holiday reps etc)
- What other details can you note? (e.g. size of enclosures, any enrichment etc)

Report what you have seen to your tour representative, and send a follow-up letter to:

Getting Close To Wildlife

We all love getting closer to nature, and especially when we’re on holiday when we get the chance to get up close and personal with wildlife that we just don’t have in the UK.

But please remember that some experiences may be traumatic for the animals, can cause injury, or prove damaging in the long run to the animals’ environment. Follow this quick guide to help us all cohabit successfully.

Marine Mammals

- Whales and dolphins (cetaceans) are highly intelligent animals, sensitive to disturbance and can be hit by vessels, often suffering propeller injury. If they approach the boat or bow-ride, maintain a slow speed and course until clear. Cetaceans should never be chased or harassed in an attempt to make them bow-ride. When watching dolphins, always let them decide what happens.

- DO NOT swim with, touch or feed marine wildlife - keep your distance. Never go closer than 100m (200m if another boat is present)

- Never drive head on to, or move between, scatter or separate dolphins. If unsure of their movements, simply stop and put the engine into neutral.

- Please spend no longer than 15 minutes near the animals.

- Special care must be taken with mothers and young. If they become separated, they may stay separated, which of course is disastrous for the babies

- Maintain a steady direction and slow ‘no wake’ speed.

- Do not dispose of any rubbish, litter or contaminants at sea.

- If you are concerned about a potentially sick or stranded animal, contact your local stranding network where available.

Guidelines were provided by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

Turtle Conservation

April 2007 saw the launch of a short animated Travel Foundation film called Turtles in Trouble narrated by the BBC Springwatch presenter Kate Humble.

The short film explains how UK tour operator practice can make a positive difference to the conservation of endangered loggerhead and green turtles during the summer holiday season in destinations like Greece, Crete and Turkey.

Thomas Cook has supported this campaign to raise awareness of the problem. A copy of the DVD, along with training packs, was sent to Zante, Crete and Kefalonia in Greece and Fethiye and Belek in Turkey to be rolled out to all of the resort teams. Local experts were invited to join the training sessions and feedback was very positive from all involved.

Looking after Turtles

- Do not dispose of any rubbish, litter or contaminants at sea. Turtles can mistake plastic bags for jelly fish and eat them while cigarettes and even orange peel can take years to biodegrade

- Watch for turtles while boating – boat strikes can kill

- Do not disturb resting, sleeping or feeding turtles and avoid startling them while in the water

- Never try to spear, harass, catch or ride turtles, nor try to feed or touch them

- While ashore, be aware of and respect any turtle nesting sites. Do not leave large items such as chairs or umbrellas on nesting beaches at night. These can obstruct a turtle’s path and prevent egg-laying. And be careful where you stick that umbrella pole in the sand!

- Turtles are strictly protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and most national laws. Do not buy or sell turtle products of any kind.

Guidelines were provided by the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) Copyright © 2005 The Coral Reef Alliance.

Wild Animals – A Helpful Checklist

Respect their habitat:
- Large numbers of visitors can impact on delicate eco-systems - follow the motto 'take only photographs and leave only footprints'.

Don't get too close:
- Like us, many animals, and in particular primates, have a sense of personal space. Gauge how they react to you as you approach, and stop when they look nervous. Usually this will be a safe distance for both parties.

Don't pursue them:
- If they move away, wait a while before approaching again, otherwise they will get the impression you are chasing them

Use a guide:
- If there are official guides, or local people who can help guide you, hiring them improves your chances of seeing the animals and encourages the local community to value their animal neighbours even if they are a nuisance.

Never feed them:
- Never feed animals human food, or eat in front of them. The next person carrying a bag like yours might be attacked because a wild animal learned it might contain food. If there is an organized system of feeding appropriate foods, you can judge whether you want to participate, but such places can have a negative impact on their health and behaviour if not well managed.

It's rude to stare:
- As with human society, a long, uninterrupted stare is intimidating and can be mistaken for a challenge. Look away and glance back if you catch their eye.

Coughs and sneezes can kill:
If you visit primates while sick even with just a runny nose or diarrhoea, you risk killing them. Because they are close relatives, many diseases can be transmitted either way between humans and primates. Be sure to maintain at least a 5 metre distance between you and the animal.

Don't try to pet them:
You might think you are being friendly, but an animal might interpret your attempt to touch them as aggression and bite back. Even if you don’t get bitten, you risk exposing yourself and your family to their viruses, bacteria and parasites.

One final warning!:
- Don't stand directly beneath arboreal (tree-dwelling) primates - if you do, you are effectively standing at the bottom of a long-drop latrine!!

Guidelines provided by Ian Redmond, Wildlife Consultant to the Born Free Foundation.

For more tips and ideas on how to get the most from your wildlife watching holiday, check out the Insider’s Guide to Safaris at the Travel Foundation website.

Working Animals

Working animals are part of everyday life in many popular holiday destinations, with millions employed in the tourist trade across the world. Taking a ride in a carriage or on a donkey or camel can be a fun and memorable holiday experience, and make a valuable difference to the local economy. If an animal is treated well it can work happily, without suffering, while providing valuable income for local people and enjoyment for tourists. But overwork and bad practices can lead to animals suffering and there are often no protection regulations overseas for working animals such as horses, donkeys and camels.

Holidaymakers can make a difference though. Look out for tips on how to do this in your holiday hotel folders or visit these websites for more information.

The Brooke is an international animal welfare organisation dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules in some of the world's poorest communities. They provide treatment, training and programmes around animal health and wellbeing, operating across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

SPANA is the charity for the working animals of the world. Each year SPANA treats almost 400,000 animals worldwide, educates children and owners in responsible animal ownership, and gets urgent help to animals and communities affected by conflict, drought and natural disaster. The Holiday Hooves Guide is packed full of advice on how you can choose healthy looking donkeys, horses, mules and camels for activities abroad. Visit the SPANA website to download your free copy or to watch a new movie about Holiday Hooves.