TripAdvisor is on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism this week from animal welfare campaigners who want the site to stop featuring certain products.
The World Animal Protection group says it is unacceptable for the brand to continue to promote "and profit from" services where animals are believed to be subject to cruelty from owners or visitors.
The group claims that research from Oxford University earlier this year indicated that 75% of the 24 different types of wildlife venues listed on the site had issues around cruelty to animals.
In its documentation to launch a petition calling on TripAdvisor to end the practice, WAP says:
"Instead of promoting and profiting from cruel wildlife tourist attractions, we want to help TripAdvisor celebrate those that benefit the lives of wild animals, such as genuine sanctuaries or responsible wildlife watching venues."
The company should consider introducing a similar "stamp of approval" that it currently gives to eco-friendly accommodation providers to those attractions that have "positive wildlife experiences".
"TripAdvisor are continuing the sad cycle of wildlife cruelty by promoting cruel attractions. They should award positive wildlife venues instead."
WAP also calls out Viator, the online marketplace for selling tickets to such attractions bought by TripAdvisor in July 2014 for $200 million.
In response, TripAdvisor says a listing on the site "does not represent our endorsement of that establishment".
An official adds:
"We provide the listings as a platform for travellers to share with others their genuine experiences there – positive or negative.
"We believe it is important to ensure all attractions a traveller could visit are listed on the site so that they can share their personal experiences."
The company adds that its mission is to "shine a light on traveller sentiment about business around the world".
It would be "contrary to that mission" if it were to exclude such businesses despite them receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews from consumers, as many of the alleged unethical attractions do.
The "best catalyst" to highlight any unfair practices comes from travellers themselves, TripAdvisor says.
"If visitors to a wildlife attraction have a concern about the welfare practices they have seen, we absolutely encourage them to leave that feedback in a review on TripAdvisor as a way to help other travellers make more informed decisions."
With regards to Viator, the official says the attractions are subject to the company's supplier Code of Conduct, a process which is supposed to ensure that animals (and other factors) adhere to local government regulations.
"Ultimately it is the responsibility of national governments and local regulatory bodies - not internet sites - to ensure that businesses are operating within the legal requirements of that country or region."
Viator rival GetYourGuide says its general policy is to follow local rules and regulations.
However, it adds:
"Individual cases brought to us that involve deliberate torture of animals are reviewed on a case-to-case basis."
WAP says that TripAdvisor's stance on giving responsibility to local authorities is misguided as "cruelty to animals is often legal and sometimes even sanctioned by governments".
It also criticises the brand's statement that it does not endorsem a business by having included it on the site.
"It isn’t as simple as that. TripAdvisor has privately developed an algorithm that determines how business listings are represented on their website.
"This algorithm can lead to even the cruellest wildlife venues being ranked highly in their Popularity Index."
NB: WAP's own list of the "world's cruellest attractions is here.
NB2: Tiger image via World Animal Protection.