Dear Lord Goldsmith
Request to introduce the elephant protection provisions of the Animals Abroad Bill, and custodial sentences, as soon as practicable
I write to you as the Government Minister responsible for the proposed Animals Abroad Bill. 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” – reinforced by extreme violence throughout their lives.
Such law is needed urgently. STAE’s research now reveals over 1,250 UK companies (and rising fast) promoting hundreds of the most violent venues in the UK market through thousands of adverts. In 2018/19 two 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 viruses to humans such as TB, SARS and, science indicates, Covid-19 too.
There is also now growing evidence of extensive human trafficking involved in unethical elephant tourism.
“Guidelines” pushed by ABTA (formerly the Association of British Travel Agents) 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 describe it as positively “dangerous” in a Covid world. ABTA as the paid mouthpiece for such operators is plainly conflicted. Indeed STAE has so far identified nearly 100 ABTA members promoting all the most brutal venues. ABTA and its members have for years ignored requests to adopt ethical tourism practices.
STAE has identified numerous broken promises of change by UK based travel companies, 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 over 33 million more from aligned petitions, backed by 100 influencers and key bodies including all main SE Asian religions.
STAE’s draft Bill bans UK advertising and sale of such venues, promoting only genuine sanctuaries where elephants are observed from a safe distance. DEFRA announced (Sunday Telegraph 4 April 2021) that it is to introduce such a Bill. We please urge that you act now with the Animals Abroad Bill: when travel restrictions lift UK tourists will again unwittingly contribute to such atrocities and also be exposed to grave danger.
I look forward to hearing when you are to introduce the Bill and crucially, that it contains appropriate custodial sentences as well as fines for serious breaches, thank you.
[YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS]
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Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Minister of State, DEFRA
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