Animals and Tourism

Animals and Tourism edited by Kevin Markwell was published earlier this month and offers a fascinating insight into the relationships between tourists and animals.

Photo: Brian Gilligan

Most of us can probably remember an encounter we’ve had with some kind of animal while on holiday. Maybe it was watching in amazement at a humpback whale launching its massive bulk out of the ocean or admiring a flamboyantly coloured parrot dodging the trunks of trees as it flew, unerringly, through an otherwise verdant rainforest. Perhaps it was simply an exotic looking butterfly, delicately landing on some equally exotic tropical flower in the garden of a resort you might have been staying at.

When you start to think more deeply, you soon realise that animals are incorporated into many of our tourism experiences; sometimes willingly, other times, not so willingly. They entertain us at tourist attractions such as zoos and aquaria; they provide transport at some destinations; most of us eat them as part of the local cuisine; we photograph them; we buy souvenirs that look like (or in some cases, are made from) them; and increasingly, many of us are taking our own cats and dogs with us while on holidays.

And not to forget the animals that annoy and irritate us such as mosquitoes and midges, ticks, and centipedes, and those which may present a threat to our safety – scorpions and venomous snakes as well as lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

Animals and TourismThe book, Animals and Tourism: Understanding Diverse Relationships, emerged from a growing interest, which many scholars now share, in understanding critically the dynamics of our relationships with non-human animals. These relationships are often contradictory, ambiguous, inconsistent, and, increasingly, contested. The tourism arena is an ideal place to place these relationships under scrutiny because of the variety of relationships that exist.

I was fortunate enough to be joined in this book project by 22 well-qualified authors who contributed 16 chapters which I then organised into three themes: ethics and animal welfare, conflict, contradiction and contestation and shifting relationships. The topics that the book covers are quite varied and chapters cover issues like the ethical implications of the use of animals such as elephants and killer whales in tourism performances or as hunting targets, the paradoxes associated with eating ‘game meat’ within the context of safari tourism, conflicts between various stakeholders in bird-watching tourism, the potential of the creepy crawlies, insects and spiders as tourist attractions and the ramifications of travelling with a pet dog, among others. Case studies and examples are drawn from all over the world including Australia, Brazil, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Africa and the US.

Photo: Kevin Markwell

I think the book sheds light on a number of important issues. There is a tendency in tourism to think of animals as ‘products’ or ‘commodities’ that are made available for our touristic pleasure and enjoyment. The interests of the animal are often regarded very much as secondary to the interests of the paying tourist. Often tourists are unaware of these issues and in doing so, maintain a market for performing elephants or photographic opportunities with gibbons and pythons. Yet, there are also examples where tourism can play a positive role in the conservation of species and we must not lose sight of this capacity of tourism to contribute to conservation and education.

Animals and Tourism aims to make a contribution to a better understanding of the intersections of animals and tourism, but as will be made clear in the book, there is still so much more to understand!

For further information about the book please see our website.

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