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  • Writer's pictureJosé-Carlos García-Rosell

Animal Welfare in Tourism in Lapland

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Animal welfare - an issue of concern in contemporary society

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the treatment of animals and their status in society. This development has been driven by scientific research drawing attention to the sentience, cognition, and awareness of animals. Based on these studies, the view of animals as mere objects, tools, or commodities cannot be ethically sustained anymore. As a society, we are not only becoming more aware of this but we are also raising ethical questions about human-animal relationships and interactions. In this regard, tourism is one of the economic sectors where animals have been used for the creation of tourism experiences. Although it is normal to see animals engage in different forms of labor from pulling carts to even performing fish pedicure, it is also common to see more tourists who are alert to welfare conditions of the animals they encounter during their holidays. Tourists are not only paying more attention to shortcomings but they also ready to share their negative experiences online. In response to this ethical concerns, international tour operators have been conducting audits of animal-based services to assess compliance with animal welfare standards.

Photo: Marko Junttila.

Therefore, tourism companies and destination management organizations need to be both better prepared to respond to these new market demands and more active in promoting animal welfare as a part of their responsible tourism initiatives. Finnish Lapland is one of these destinations which rely heavily on animal work for the creation of tourism and leisure experiences. Most tourists visiting Lapland will have a sled dog tour and a visit to a reindeer farm in their bucket list. Animals such as reindeer and huskies are not only one of the main attractions of Lapland, but they have also become an important branding element of this Nordic destination.

Learning about animal welfare in tourism in Lapland

To promote literacy about animal welfare in the tourism industry in Lapland, we have created a handbook offering insights into the animal-based tourism operations in Finnish Lapland and the attitudes of tourists towards the use of animals in the creation of tourism experiences. The handbook also includes information about sled dogs, reindeer, and horses, which are the main species performing tourism work in this Nordic destination. It provides a description of the different practices used to take care of the animals and thus, promote their physical and psychological welfare. The handbook was produced as a part of the “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services” -project (2016–2018), which was funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and carried out by the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (Lapland University of Applied Sciences and University of Lapland) along with the School ofIndustry and Natural Resources of the Lapland University of Applied Sciences. The handbook is freely available HERE.


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