Travel Corporation, the parent company of global tour providers Contiki and Busabout, has announced they will no longer offer running with the bulls within their holiday packages.
While the controversial event (held in Pamplona, Spain) remains a draw-card for some, Travel Corporation has withdrawn its support due to growing concerns for animal welfare.
According to Vanessa Budah, Head of PR at Travel Corporation, the company can no longer support the treatment of the animals – who are shocked, maimed, and ultimately slaughtered by matadors.
“It’s [a decision] mainly for the reason of the treatment of the bulls… It’s unethical and not what we stand for,” Ms Budah told the ABC.
Travel Corporation also cited a growing customer awareness of ethical tourism practices – with millennial holidaymakers increasingly motivated to ‘make travel matter.’
“[Our customers] want to know that in everything they do they make a difference. We’re aligning with those ideals the best we can”, Ms Budah said.
—– Warning: The section below contains distressing content —–
What is the running of the bulls?
The running of the bulls is part of the Encierro festival; an annual event which sees bulls released into a sectioned area of the Spanish town, Pamplona.
The ‘run’ covers an 875-meter course, with six fighting bulls and a tamed bell-oxen which leads these frightened animals throughout narrow city streets.
Spectators wear red scarves and run ahead of the animals, often resulting in injuries and even death – as the disoriented bulls vie for safety.
Sadly, foolish tourists aren’t the only ones who get hurt. The bulls are forced from darkness into a drunken crowd, often with the use of electronic prods.
Once these intelligent animals finally complete the slippery course, the ‘race’ ends with a fight to the death (always theirs). The bulls enter a ring where they are ultimately killed by a matador (or executioner) before the crowd.
Though the Encierro was once a popular bucket-list item, Ms Budah says tourists’ attitudes are shifting.
“If we were to continue running something like that, there’d be a lot of backlash… It’s what our passengers are telling us as well.”
Contiki announces a new, sustainable response to tourism
In alignment with their customer’s changing awareness and ideals, Contiki have also placed a greater emphasis on travel that ‘gives back’.
Instead of selfies with drugged tigers, or rides on mistreated elephants – millennial-focused tour operators are offering sustainable and cruelty-free activities.
These include outings such as as traditional beading workshops with the Maasi Mara people in Kenya, or tours with the founder of a community garden in Venice.
Travel Corporation also recently announced a non-profit partnership with a conservation organisation in Asia – which provides ethical interactions with rescue elephants.
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"So up until this trip I had no idea about this but Contiki is actually a founding partner of @TreadRight, a not-for-profit foundation established by The Travel Corporation in 2008 to encourage sustainable tourism within its family of amazing travel brands. Yesterday was one of those feel good experiences being up close and personal with this little squad of rescued elephants here in Thailand at the Sai Yok Elephant Sanctuary. After a little bath session in the mud and some series splash time swimming around, like any big kid it was time for a feast, bamboo on the menu. Day 3 of Contiki's Asian Adventure has been incredible 🐘🇹🇭💕" – @mr.jakerich
“Most travelers have no idea of the abuse elephants endure to be tamed for riding,” Ms Budah told Triple J.
“They’re poached from the wild as babies, isolated from other elephants and beaten until they’re so terrified of people they’ll do anything for entertainment.”
Instead, Travel Corporation offers ethical interactions with rescue elephants:
“There’s an organization that pulls elephants away from this tourism, where you can bathe them and feed them… They’re slowly learning to trust humans again.”