Global regulations and local practices: The politics and governance of animal welfare in elephant tourism

Rosaleen Duffy, Lorraine Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines challenges associated with global regulation of the tourism industry via an analysis of the use of elephants for trekking and safaris in Thailand and Botswana. It highlights inherent problems in applying universal principles in diverse locations; it unpicks the North-South power dynamics involved in drawing up global standards for elephant welfare in tourism. The development and expansion of elephant riding raise important ethical issues around questions of animal welfare, especially definitions of acceptable and appropriate standards for working animals. This paper uses a political economy approach to understandings of global governance to analyse who has the power to govern, at what scale and with what effects. It examines the role of animal welfare NGOs as key epistemic communities shaping the debate on elephant welfare. It discusses the highly variable practices of working with elephants in Botswana and in Thailand. It concludes that attempts at global regulation need to seriously engage with local level practices if global standards are to be workable and acceptable for tour operators, animal welfare NGOs, elephant camp owners and tourists alike. It raises leading global governance issues and discussions of the role of NGOs in governance, in general. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-604
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Adventure tourism
  • Certification
  • Ecotourism
  • Ngos
  • Politics
  • Wildlife tourism


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