After months of negotiations with the radical activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), TripAdvisor no longer sells tickets to certain attractions that involve interactions with animals, including dolphin swims and elephant rides. Pressured by PETA, TripAdvisor won't let you pet a tiger when you visit Thailand. What's next on the chopping block: Horseback riding and bird-watching?
See the absurdity for yourself:
Why the outrage? In recent years, PETA has become intensely radicalized, caring less about promoting “ethical treatment” and more about discouraging human contact with animals altogether.
Ingrid Newkirk, the president and co-founder of PETA, claims that her group's ultimate goal is “total animal liberation”—in other words, the abolition of zoos, aquariums, and circuses. PETA also opposes medical research that requires the use of animals, even research meant to cure deadly illnesses. As Newkirk puts it, “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we would be against it.” (Ironically, PETA has killed roughly 35,000 animals at its headquarters in Virginia.)
Now PETA is turning its attention to the “enslaved” animals on TripAdvisor's website while the company plays the role of willing accomplice. According to TripAdvisor President and CEO Stephen Kaufer,
We believe the end result of our efforts will be enabling travelers to make more thoughtful choices about whether to visit an animal attraction and to write more meaningful reviews about those attractions.
They sure need “more meaningful reviews.” You've heard about fake news, but how about fake reviews?
On TripAdvisor, a Scottish homeless shelter was given five stars, in case you wanted to visit the homeless on your next family vacation. A fake restaurant topped Italy's rankings. A closed Tunisian hotel received a top award—after a terrorist attack. That's right - the Riu Imperial Marhaba in Tunisia earned TripAdvisor's coveted Traveler's Choice award (“the highest honor TripAdvisor can bestow”) only months after an ISIS gunman killed 38 people at the hotel and its beach. The company later retracted the award, mirroring the time it was forced to remove 280 fake reviews from one British restaurant after they had destroyed the business.
In 2015, undercover researchers found that TripAdvisor posted three fake businesses in addition to 18 reviews for those non-existent destinations. According to the Daily Mail's Mark Palmer, the company has “no way of proving how many of its reviews are genuine and how many are the work of fraudsters with axes to grind or hoteliers blowing their own trumpets."
Not surprisingly, TripAdvisor’s stock price has tanked in recent months. It currently hovers around $44 a share, down from $71 per share last July. For Mr. Kaufer, there’s a lot more to worry about than dolphin swims and elephant rides.
TripAdvisor just earned a one-star review.