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Animals continue to be used for work particularly in rural and agricultural economies. These include horses, oxen and cattle as well as more iconic species such as camel and elephant.

Entertainment & Work

Neville White Neville White Head of RI Policy & Research
Edentree Insight reports

Animals, Business & Investment

Neville White


Head of RI Policy & Research
23 Jun 2020

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Chapter 7

Entertainment & Work

Animals continue to be used for work particularly in rural and agricultural economies. These include horses, oxen and cattle as well as more iconic species such as camel and elephant.

These areas are, by and large, not investible, however, where there is evidence of use we would be cautious unless high welfare standards could be guaranteed e.g. timber sourcing and logging where animals may be used. In developed markets, animals may be used professionally – an example being horses used as funeral pall bearers, and of course they (and dogs) are used professionally by bodies such as the police and military. This section principally concerns entertainment and tourism where animals may be ill-treated and exploited. In other areas – e.g. racing (dogs and horses) – the studs themselves are rarely investible, and racecourse owners are excluded under our ethical gambling screens.

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest provider of funerals and horse-drawn funerals are the 10th most popular form of hearse, behind canal boats, milk floats and a tandem bicycle! However, they and Dignity – the UK’s second largest provider, say very little about animal welfare and how their horses are stabled.

Animals are ever-present in some forms of entertainment but can hardly ‘consent’, whilst they can be exploited and stressed as a result of unnatural human interaction in captivity or in the wild.  

 

Film & Entertainment

Animals are used extensively in the creative industries. Every animal appearing in film or TV has to be sourced, trained and looked after. Production companies typically use specialist agencies that provide and train animals.

Welfare has become a critical consideration for producers. In the US, animal welfare is overseen by the AHA (American Humane Association) which has exclusive use of its ‘no animals harmed’ badge that appears in movie credits. The AHA also provide welfare and handling advice. Most of the major production studios are now part of wider media conglomerates, with only Disney retaining independent status. 

Despite welfare priorities, there is a school of thought that animals are involuntary actors, taken from the wild, bred in captivity and made ‘dependent’ on humans from an early age. There is little way of ensuring that animals used in film and television production have not been mistreated ‘away from set’ in being reared and trained; AHA ratings only provide assurance for ‘on-set’ treatment. 27 animals died in the making of The Hobbit, mostly owing to their being housed in poor conditions. This is a challenging and largely invisible area for responsible investors with little or no public disclosure by corporates.

Tourism

Animal focused tourism and travel is a significant and growing part of the luxury recreation market. Eco-tourism can be a force for good in supporting conservation and deterring poaching, but it can also be destructive owing to the sheer volume of tourists now visiting pristine sites.

Kenya’s Mara Reserve has increased from 300 beds in 1980 to over 3,000 today but it also contributes $1bn in GDP and represents close to 10% of Kenya’s employment opportunity. There is little reliable data regarding the value of conservation based tourism to Sub-Saharan Africa, but it has become a priority for ‘premier’ destinations such as Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. In 2017, 14 countries derived $142m in entrance fees to protected areas, and it supports 6% of employment across the sub-Saharan region. The managed trade is also vibrant, but generally realises less income.

Botswana has recently announced it is to commence auctioning licenses to shoot elephants at c$43,000 per animal. Managed conservation can be a vital part of protecting and enhancing ecologies, but it should be recognised that Botswana in changing course – controversially – earned just $2.6m from elephant auctions in the 2019 season, compared to its safari based revenues of $2.7bn. Overall, safari based wildlife watching is a vital part of protecting endangered species. Whilst it can be done well, the popularity of ‘chasing’ iconic species can disturb the very eco-systems tourists seek out – especially in vital wildernesses such as Antarctica.

Captive tourism – as opposed to managed conservation continues to be controversial. Aquaria and marine parks exist essentially to entertain and have been faced with boycott and criticism over the captivity of species such as dolphin and orca, given these raise very significant welfare issues. Sea World faced strong criticism and finally announced dolphin and orca entertainment shows would cease. However in some places – China and Japan – entertainment based marine parks remain popular. It has been illegal to ‘host’ captive orca in the UK since 1993. 

"Marine mammals simply cannot thrive in captivity. Almost all the species are wide-ranging predators – and the best we can provide for them are barren concrete boxes or small sea pen corrals. They need the complex ocean environment" - Naomi Rose, Marine Scientist

Case study - The Walt Disney Company

Held in EdenTree Funds, the Disney Company is perhaps most famous for its family-friendly movie making, however within its theme parks business, Disney’s Animal Kingdom presents managed conservation as part of an education focused visitor attraction, and is among its biggest draws.

Opened in 1998 and at 580 acres the Animal Kingdom is the largest theme park in the world and is dedicated and themed entirely around the natural environment and animal conservation, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney himself. The park meets high standards of welfare but has always attracted criticism for holding animals in captivity – however it has also nurtured live births of rare and endangered species such as the park’s southern white rhino. Disney does not host marine entertainment.

The balance between entertainment, exploitation and conservation is perhaps more acute in the mainstream holiday segment. 

Case study - TUI Group

TUI Group is the world’s largest leisure, travel agency and tourism business. An Anglo-German conglomerate, TUI is listed in London and domiciled in Germany and brings together 1,600 agencies, six airlines, 400 hotels and 18 cruise ships all serving 180m customers.

By its nature, TUI offers multiple opportunities to ‘interact’ with animals e.g. feeding deer in Japan. The company removed all excursions involving elephant rides in 2016, but it has attracted persistent criticism over poor welfare. All of TUI’s welfare disclosure focuses in the main on safari experiences, however it is now almost alone in not ruling out marine park entertainment excursions to see and interact with captive dolphins.

For instance it promotes packages to 16 dolphinariums in the Caribbean via their cruise ship business. TUI endorses the ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) Guidelines on animals in tourism, but these are almost silent on marine parks. ABTA provides a list of unacceptable practices as part of its guidance, for instance contact with or feeding great apes, alligators, bears, sloths, wild cats, but remains coy about marine experiences.

What is EdenTree’s Approach?

We do not have a definitive policy on animal welfare in areas of film, television and tourism, which remains a novel issue for investors.

We recognise that work, entertainment and tourism present real challenges for the responsible investor, in that this remains fairly invisible in terms of disclosures about welfare risk. Animals are ever-present in some forms of entertainment but can hardly ‘consent’, whilst they can be exploited and stressed as a result of unnatural human interaction in captivity or in the wild. We rely on frameworks of best practice, such as ABTA’s, that support the best interests of the animals in terms of their being able to exhibit natural behaviour. We support conservation, learning and educative experiences which inform about the natural world, whilst as far as possible leaving wild animals to enjoy (as close to) their natural environment. Our exposure is most likely to be via media conglomerates such as Disney, and travel companies where a range of experiences are promoted to tourists. We will seek to engage over the long-term to ensure high welfare standards are not compromised in pursuit of short-term economic gains.

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