Dear Lord Goldsmith
New law needed to stop UK tour operators promoting elephant abuse and spread of deadly viruses to tourists
I write to you as Minister of State at DEFRA responsible for the above issue. As you may recall, in 2019 Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) sent you the Asian Elephants (Tourism) Bill, drafted at your request. It would ban the UK advertising and sale of cruel Asian elephant related "attractions" where endangered babies and adults are snatched from the wild and tortured to “break their spirits” for easy use in tourism - riding, selfies and “tricks” - from which no company should profit. The Bill promotes genuine sanctuaries where elephants can be observed from a safe and respectful distance.
Such law is needed now more than ever. STAE’s research shows 871 UK based companies (and rising fast) promoting hundreds of the most violent venues across SE Asia. When travel restrictions lift UK tourists will again unwittingly contribute to such atrocities. In 2018/19 2 million UK tourists visited India and Thailand. In 2016 13 million elephant rides occurred in Thailand alone.
Elephants provoked by abuse attack and kill tourists. Broken down and held in fetid close confinement elephants also transmit deadly airborne viruses to humans such as TB. Developing research suggests a grave risk of elephants shedding Covid-19 to humans too.
Animal welfare "guidelines” asserted by ABTA are vague, full of loopholes, lack any mechanism for monitoring, enforcement or sanctions for breach, are wholly voluntary, with no take up or effect. Experts who helped ABTA draft them express dismay that key advice has been excluded by ABTA in the published version, and are described as positively “dangerous” in a Covid world. ABTA as the paid mouthpiece for such operators is plainly conflicted. Indeed STAE has to date identified 110 ABTA members promoting hundreds of abusive venues, including all the worst. ABTA and its members have for years ignored STAE’s requests to desist.
STAE has also recorded numerous broken promises of change, showing the futility of blandishments as a substitute for law and sanctions.
Populus polling (July 2020) shows 90% of Britons demand an immediate end to such abuse. 79% want STAE’s new law now. STAE’s petition has over 1 million signatures plus 30 million from aligned petitions, backed by 100 influencers and key bodies including all main SE Asian religions.
I do hope you will address the urgent need for a law such as drafted by STAE, and I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.
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Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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